Sunday, June 05, 2005

CLASSIC HEIST MOVIE TROPES

As seen in such movies as: The Italian Job (the original), Ocean's Eleven (the remake), The Heist, The Score, Things To Do In Dever When You’re Dead.

Okay, forgetting the viking stuff for the moment, and obviously not all these happen in every heist movie (or sometimes they get shifted around, such as in Denver when the CRIPPLED MENTOR (Christopher Walken) is also the SHADOW), but I reckon this has the bases covered. If I've missed out any obvious ones, let me know. And the capitals are there to denote archetypal moments/tropes cod-Campbell/Jungian stylee rather than linking anywhere, although the temptation to do a wiki on this is almost overwhelming...

Here they are then:

HERO just out of prison, heads out, stoically cool, picks up smart clothes, is met by LOYAL LIEUTENANT.
They assemble the CREW, a collection of oddballs whose various specialities include VEHICLE, SURVEILLEANCE/TECH , MUSCLE, FAST-TALKING, MUNITIONS
WANNABE turns up, annoys the crew and begs to be let on board.
HERO tells the CREW he needs their help in order to break into an IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS – they tell him he’s crazy and refuse, but he turns them round.
HERO and LOYAL LIEUTENANT seek the advice of a CRIPPLED MENTOR, who knows the way into the IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS.
HERO tells the crew how they’re going to do this heist, with diagrams (also popular in disaster movies, like ARMAGEDDON, which has Billy-Bob Thornton with a toy space shuttle on a stick, in case the audience missed the earlier stuff, which is fair enough) .
HERO has to overcome a FEMME FATALE, with whom he has history.
CREW have a dry run of the heist, which goes facically badly (the 'you're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off' scene).
HERO reveals he has kept something from his LOYAL LIEUTENANT when he reveals that the real reason behind the heist is personal, not business, which contravenes the code they live by. they fall out, but get back together to get on with the heist.
Target of the CREW is a SHADOW of the HERO himself: they have a past history.
WANNABE causes the plan to nearly fail.
SHADOW may at some point release a TERRIFYING HITMAN to eradicate the HERO (Steve Buscemi in DENVER).
Journey to the IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS.
Initial scout around of the IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS, possibly get spotted by agents of the SHADOW.
Plan goes wrong, sensible thing would be to back out – LOYAL LIEUTENANT has bad feelings about it – but Hero wants to proceed. LOYAL LIEUTENANT confronts HERO, suggesting he is overcommitted to the heist for purely personal reasons, and that the sensible thing would be to back out now while they can escape. HERO persuades them all to continue.
WANNABE finds he has to carry out a dangerous part of the plan on his own. He succeeds.
HERO pulls a switch on his SHADOW (and possibly on his whole CREW, with the exception of LOYAL LIEUTENANT) and also the audience, who haven’t been privy to an important part of the plan. They heist succeeds, and HERO, LOYAL LIEUTENANT and CREW escape with the loot, while HERO succeeds in his personal quest to boot.

Crew gather to celebrate while Claire de Lune plays over fountains.

6 comments:

Maud said...

I can't remember any of the others, but that's definitely the plot of Ocean's 11.

You missed one crucial thing though. At one point HERO and LOYAL LIUTENANT play cards with some poor loser, and, of course, win spectacularly, thus showing the audience that the are Clever and Good at Gambling.

james henry said...

It's definitely Ocean's 11, which has to the smartest, most self-aware heist movie ever. Although I like to think you could make a movie of Jason and the Argonauts, and it would follow pretty much the same basic structure. Out of Sight is another great Soderburgh/Clooney crime movie - nominally a heist, but with a strong streak of romance as well, and just a cracking piece of film.

I agree with you about the gambling - certainly needs to be in the mix somewhere.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

Other films to note:
League of Gentlemen- they get caught.
Usual Suspects- with a twist.
Thrid Man- you know that you need to actually watch it to spot parralels.

Another point to note- similarity to escape/war movie eg Great Escape & Bridge Too Far and i think the Italian Job falls more into the war movie genre than the pure heist model.

james henry said...

I will watch the rest of "The Thrid Man" very soon - promise. Must watch that there original "League of Gentlemen" (Jack Hawkins? - Have you got that on DVD?)

Uberpause said...

How about Kelly's Heroes? That's a heist movie and a war movie. And it has a cool opening song that has nothing to do with either war or heists.

But other than that it follows the rest of the plan perfectly, except the femme fatale is replaced with Telly Savalas.

Nanga Parbat said...

Seems to me you've got it all except the bit when the impossibly cool hero is imprisoned and then produces a ball and baseball glove...
Or stampedes the aliens over a cliff..
Or it turns out that the bad guys would only need to catch a cold (cf. Independence Day or the HG Wells novel du choix.)
Or that the prophesied king would turn up with a magic sword (elven) and some zombies and save the day!
Or... have I lost the plot to some extent?