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Thursday, January 13, 2011

heist films

Over the course of 4 days I had the opportunity to watch two movies focusing on heist crews and the efforts of law enforcement to catch them. These movies had a lot of things that it seems such movies must have before they are produced a kind of deal with the devil. They began with a heist that is pulled off according to plan to show us that there are some smarties who go into crime. The only smart guy in the crew decides to pull out because of love/ family/ heat from the feds, however the other guy who the film focuses on; there’s always a guy who is too violent and hotheaded for a life in crime, As the audience we know he is going to be the downfall of the crew cos he unnecessarily brandishes weapons or buys too many lap dances or whatever. He is the guy who no one can figure why he is in the crew but he is, well this guy comes up with a surefire robbery that everyone can retire from. He suggests this and has to blackmail the smart guy with a guilt trip or a good old fashioned threat.

This is where I go off on a tangent. You know in movies when someone asks is that a threat.
I’ve been hearing that for years and there are so many responses
1. yes
2. no, it’s a promise
3. you’ll find out
4. What do you think?
5. (a short derisive laugh)
6. no just a warning
7. I don’t make threats I keep them.
Not sure which is the best but some of them are pretty damn scary.

Ok back to bank robber movies. The crew decides to get together for the last time but the cops are on them because the robbery at the beginning was so slick they brought in the FBI and this motherfucker is not for games. As the movie goes on he starts tailing them, getting evidence and intimidating acquaintances and the noose tightness as the pace quickens till the climax is the final heist with the cops breathing down their necks.

That in short general strokes is the plot of every bank robber movie ever made, every single one follows those plot elements and has those characters as well as a love interest thrown in to spice up life.

I watched 2 of those movies both circa 2010. One was called TAKERS and the other THE TOWN. They were both faithful to formula but at the end of one I felt I had wasted some of my life on crap. Art is subjective (there may even be some people who don’t think we were four are the greatest thing to happen to music since the creation of Lucifer). Me not liking a movie doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad just that I thought it was crap. Halfway through it I stopped trying to follow the various variations they put on the standard plot. The other was amazing. I couldn’t stop watching it in spite of numerous interruptions. I was completely swept up in the movie. In its authenticity. The heists they were pulling off were much simpler than in the previous movie, they stuck to shock and awe. And they had this really beautiful threat where they told these guys the names of their wives and the number of children they had implying that their family is not safe. Menace is always better understated.

In one of the movies there were so many characters their names became a needless mishmash in fact am not sure they all had names. Character development was at a minimum. The cop who was tasked to look for them was a dumb brute. He kept having these houseian epiphanies but they were never believable. He seemed so angry and rash and trigger happy. It was impossible to feel anything but a sense of superiority whenever you saw his face or heard his voice. No one could seriously be expected to believe he could catch anything even an STD. in the other the characters were so well fleshed out I felt like I knew them. They gave them back stories and lives that had a bearing on the plot. The police were scary and smart. The way they tracked down the robbers had less to do with brainstorms form a guy who doesn’t seem to have ever had a brain drizzle and more to do with hard work, putting pieces together as they came along and even dumb luck. But they were more respectable and even more professional the kind of police every law abiding citizen hopes to have. In one movie I wasn’t sure whether to be on the side of the cops and robbers this was because I didn’t like either in the other it was cos I liked both so much.

Another thing that one got right and the other flopped in so much as creating an emotional attachment with the audience. Strangely the sad story in the movies had to do with family, loyalty and the way it can get you in the end. One movie shows us a drug addict in all her glorious piteousness, we hear stories and see photographs that give a window into a happier time as a motivation for the bank heists. Even with all of these elements it seems forced. In the other movie the story revolves around an absentee parent-we never see her or even hear her name- told in turns from the perspective of the son, the husband and a black coated villain. In each telling this story is heart wrenching enough to make you blink away tears yet each telling changes a significant part of the story as we come to understand about the ugliness of truth and that even the unsettling varnish of a lie can be preferable to the raw power of the truth. It touches on sorrow, pain, acceptance, revenge and protection in various ways till it seems like the perfect motive for the character’s actions later in the movie.

I feel sad that some people may watch the wrong movie and because both are about bank/ truck robberies they won’t watch the other one. So do me this favor if you watched one and didn’t like it watch the other one and if you watched one and did like it don’t bother with the other one. It would take a very special person to like both.

remember all bank robbery movies are equal but some bank robbery movies are more equal than others.