One premise that always makes for an interesting film is one where a robbery takes place. Heist films as they are more commonly known as are usually comprised of a plot that centres around the formulation of a plan leading to a bank being robbed or something being stolen, and then the repercussions of this act, which either see the criminals get away with it or get caught.
Here are my top 5 heist films:
The Town is the second film directed by Ben Affleck who also stars as Doug MacRay, a man who robs banks with three other friends and after taking a bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage, he begins to have feelings towards her. Although the FBI become closer to proving that MacRay and his friends committed the crime, the gang want to do one last job which inevitably doesn’t go to plan.
Denzel Washington plays detective Keith Frazier who is trying to find out how some bank robbers were able to outsmart the police and rob a bank without taking any money, and then leaving the bank amongst hostages undetected. The intriguing plot leaves surprises for the audience until the end and in true Spike Lee fashion the film is not merely a heist film, but it also deals with issues of corruption, prejudice and what we perceive as right and wrong. The clever plot and witty dialogue make this a worthy addition to the genre.
Dog Day Afternoon
This 1972 film stars a young Al Pacino as Sonny, a first time crook who with his friend Sal attempt to rob a bank in New York. Sonny is trying to raise money to pay for his lover’s sex reassignment operation, but the lack of organisation and Sal’s nervous disposition lead to the two being trapped and surrounded by police. Based on a true story, the events begin to attract crowds and media attention, and it is Pacino, and John Cazale’s performances that elevate this film from being just another heist film.
Patrick Swayze plays Bodhi, a surfer who is also the leader of a group of bank robbers called the ‘Ex-Presidents’. Keanu Reeves also stars as a young FBI agent who is trying to track down and reveal the identities of the bank robbers. Like a lot of films in this genre there is something about the antagonist that we slightly root for. Whether it be that they are stealing money for a ‘good’ cause, or the fact that we …ok I find it hard to shake the memory of Swayze’s role as a good looking dancing instructor in a classic eighties film, Bodhi’s demise is somehow fitting, and better than him being thrown into prison.
Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut is a heist film that never actually shows the heist. The film depicts the aftermath of a robbery that goes awry. This nonlinear story stars Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen as criminals who are trying to find out who amongst them has set them up. This film set the bar for all Tarantino films to come as well proving that we do not necessarily have to see the robbery itself to be engaged in the story.
Honorary mentions go to:
Heat … no explanation needed!
Inception is a heist film of a different kind that flips the whole genre on its head, stealing information from peoples sub consciousness, creating dreams, within dreams, within dreams. With its complex plot, you will need to watch this film at least twice to truly enjoy Chris Nolan’s contribution to the genre.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros