20th Apr2017

Top 5: Heist Movies

by Phil Wheat

With both The Hatton Garden Job in UK cinemas now, and We Still Steal the Old Way available on DVD from today, I thought i’d take a look at my favourite Top Five Heist/Crime Caper Movies… In order (for a change) they are:

5) In Security

In Security tells the story of best friends Kevin and Bruce, who are co-owners of a failing home security company in a town with no crime. As a last ditch effort to drum up some business, they start robbing the neighbors to instill fear and create a need for their services but bullets fly when they unwittingly rob the wrong guy – a suburban drug lord with a penchant for kitchen gadgets.

It’s fair to say I love a good goofball crime caper, but In Security however has much more than being just a “crime caper” going for it. For one it stars one of my favourite actors, Ethan Embry – an actor whom I, in all honesty, have yet to see a terrible performance from. Embry’s versatility is the main reason that this film‘s dual nature, in particular the films dark shift in tone come the mid-point, actually works. In the hands of a lesser actor the bizarre shift from a light-hearted goofball crime flick to dark black-comedy gangster movie wouldn’t work, but here Embry manages to carry the film on his shoulders, switching from film funny man to put upon hero as and when the story needs it.

4) Flypaper

The premise of Flypaper is pretty simple, at least at first: during a seemingly normal afternoon, Tripp Kennedy (Patrick Dempsey) strolls into his bank near closing time, just as two different bank robbery gangs unwittingly target it at the same time. As a shoot-out erupts, Tripp tries to protect the attractive bank teller Kaitlin (Ashley Judd), but as the conflicting gangs – one a group of slick professionals and the other a couple of dim-witted buffoons named Peanut Butter and Jelly – find themselves in a standoff,  the bank’s security system starts the end of day lockdown and seals everyone in the building…

Penned by the two writers of The Hangover, Flypaper‘s script is very fast-paced, combining comedy, action and murder mystery in a film that is literally stolen by the madcap, over the top, yet engaging performance of Patrick Dempsey as Tripp Kennedy, a man off his medication and mentally going out of control, in the middle of an out of control situation, who somehow manages to keep it together long enough to get everything under control and save the day.

3) The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal tells the story of Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell), a third rate motorcycle daredevil and semi-reformed art thief, who agrees to get back into the con game and pull off one final lucrative art theft with his untrustworthy brother, Nicky (Matt Dillon). Reassembling the old team, Crunch comes up with a plan to steal a priceless historical book, but the successful heist leads to another far riskier plan devised by Nicky. They fail to realize each other’s separate agendas when their plan goes awry in this con movie about honor, revenge and the bonds of brotherhood.

Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Jonathan Sobol (A Beginners Guide to Endings), The Art of the Steal is all about the cast of characters rather than the actual caper, not that the heist should in any way be under estimated. After all, as with all of these types of genre flicks, the big reveal – the true heist if you will – is part and parcel of the story. Interestingly, Sobol’s film plays with conventions of the genre, he and his cast of characters know this film is typical of the genre – you could say this is the Scream of the heist/caper movie, there’s a knowing nod to the audience throughout the film – hell, even Kurt Russell’s character Crunch discusses the stupid notion of the “last big score” and how that’s not how real life works, but then one last big score is what the film is actually all about! It’s the playfulness, the knowingness and, frankly, the sheer awesomeness of the cast which really makes this film rise above the flotsum of the genre.

2) Foolproof

An early(ish) film role for Ryan Reynolds, Foolproof is a Canadian crime caper featuring an international cast – including former Poirot star David Sucheet – and tells the story of friends Kevin, Sam and Rob, who spend their free time plannin foolproof heists, but without the intention of actually carrying them out. They have a few rules of course: including them having the necessary technical and physical abilities to carry out the tasks required for the heist, the plan cannot include loaded guns, and there is no violence meaning that no one gets hurt… The trio’s lives change however when someone breaks into Sam’s apartment and steals their latest plan for a jewellery heist. A heist which actually takes place! The culprit is Leo ‘The Touch’ Gillette, a well-known, successful, thief who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Including the would-be theives working for him…

Probably one of Ryan Reynolds best film roles, Foolproof is one of those films that seems to have crept under the radar of many people. Probably because this Canadian production went direct to DVD (though in the UK the film played in heavy rotation on Movies4Men in 2010, screening almost every week) with little fanfare and, of course, Reynolds wasn’t the household name he is today – at this point in his career he was best know for his role in sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place and Van Wilder. But it’s not just Reynolds who makes this film, whose production seems to be something of a perfect storm of great cast, fantastic script and superb direction from William Phillips: whose only other film of note, sadly, is the Paul (Due South) Gross starring comedy Gunless. Foolproof is definitely a film that’s ripe for rediscovery.

1) Fast Getaway

Undoubtedly written off as yet another Corey Haim comedy by many, Fast Getaway came at a time when Haim was experimenting with other genres – appearing in two action movies: Prayer of the Rollerboys and The Double O Kid; and the comedy thriller The Dream Machine. As such the film is unlike the teen movies Haim was known for and it was that which no doubt hurt the film with fans used to the more spirited nature of his movies. Though Fast Getaway is still very lighthearted… The film tells the tale of a gang of bank robbers – Nelson, Sam, Lilly and Tony – who fall out and split up early on in proceedings. The brains of the gang is Nelson (Haim), a teenager who, with his father Sam (Leo Rossi), successfully continue their crime spree. Annoyed at this, Lilly (Cynthia Rothrock) and her loyal and stupid companion Tony, decide to kidnap the Nelson, and force him to work for them.

Whilst that synopsis might not sound much, Fast Getaway is far and away my favourite film on this list – mainly due to the awesome stunt work within: car chases galore, a huge bridge drop stunt, martial arts and more! This is due to the man behind the lens, director Spiro Razatos, one of Hollywood most well-known stunt co-ordinators, who made his directorial debut with this film (and who would only direct one more film, Class of 1999 2 and a TV show, Team Knightrider, before heading back into stunt work). Razatos knows how to stage the action to elicit the most excitement and tension, whilst the script, from James Dixon (Return to Salem’s Lot) brings the heart and the laughs. Helped by some superb chemistry between Leo Rossi, as Nelson’s dad Sam, Corey Haim and Marcia Strassman as Nelson’s estranged mother Lorraine. And you get to see Cynthia Rothrock not only perform some martial arts moves, but she gets to unleash her comedic timing too! Plus as a bonus, Fast Getaway, in my opinion, features one of the best film soundtrack of the 90s, even though there was no official release of it anywhere that I know of!

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