So, okay. I would be lying if I said that Steven Soderbergh's 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven wasn't the first thing that came to mind. I love it. It's a blast. The scene where Elliott Gould recounts the "Three Most Successful Robberies of Las Vegas Casinos" alone is enough for inclusion on any list of Heist Movies. Alas, I've picked it before. Don't want to repeat.
I'd also be lying if I said the same about the 1973 Best Picture Winner, The Sting, a brilliant con game within a con game culminating in one satisfying heist. I'll just send you over to my February Blind Spot post for that one.
I'm going for the same vein, though, this Thursday as part of Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. Movies where teams are assembled to steal not only money, or other things of worth, but also to steal something bigger, even world-saving or life-changing.
Here are my picks:
dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 1991
Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is the newest recruit at the field offices of the FBI in Los Angeles. Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) is a full-time bro, a surfer, an adrenaline junkie, leading a string of bank robberies, all committed by four guys in masks of Ex-Presidents (LBJ, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan), recently on the radar of washed-up Agent Pappas (Gary Busey), now saddled with the new guy. Utah must go undercover and surf to pin down his man. Will the lifestyle overshadow his drive to do so? This is, quite simply, the most perfect action movie ever made, in my opinion. Bigelow's direction is just so tight. Some of the action sequences are literally beyond any explanation...pre-CGI. And the prize is so much more than the money, the money is just a means to an end. "100% pure adrenaline!" Bodhi says. "Some people jab a vein for it. All you gotta do is jump."
dir. David O. Russell, 1999
Operation Desert Storm is done. Nothing accomplished and feeling letdown by the lack of action, Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) finds just what he's looking for when he and his partner, PFC Condrad Vig (Spike Jonze), find a map of bunkers in an Iraqi prisoner's ass. Along with Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) and the disillusioned, soon-to-retire Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), Troy and Conrad go on a mission find the Kuwaiti gold stolen and hidden by Hussein's Republican Guard. This is a movie that becomes so much bigger than anything about its first act ever lets on. The heist is simply a catalyst for an ever-impending understanding of the devastation of a people we, in America, never learned anything about. Added to this, it is one of the coolest, most entertaining movies I've ever seen. And that soundtrack tho.
dir. John Turteltaub, 2004
This one is for my wife, an American history buff like none other. Question: Is this movie absolutely preposterous? Sure. It's like The DaVinci Code for American middle school kids. FACT! And that's precisely why it's so much damn fun. I have seen this movie a dozen times, and it never fails to crack me up, hold me on the edge of every delightful development and heist-within-heist, and it literally teaches us (through its various conspiracy theories) some real truths about the history of America. Leave your Nicolas Cage hate at the door, and save me the time it will take to prove you wrong. He is great here, and he is almost always great. Deal with it!
The Missing Fisti Pick of the Week
Man on Wire
dir. James Marsh, 2008
So, if you followed Fisti's Four Ways a Best Picture last summer, then you already know that Brittany, Wendell, Jeffery, Drew (of course), and I came down to this film as the best "Best Picture" winner of the last fifteen years. Winner of Best Documentary Feature, this film is an emotional rollercoaster. It is equal parts biography, heist film, and triumph. The story of Phillipe Petit, the dude who Ocean's Eleven-ed his way to the top of the World Trade Center's two towers, hung a cable, and walked across, then danced back, is one of a man who may very well be the most daring, amazing, lovable, life-filled person of the 20th century. His story is elegantly told by British director James Marsh through archive footage, newspaper stories, interviews, and expertly composed reenactments. It is glorious. See it immediately, if you haven't already.
P.S. I hope somebody picks Jackie Brown today. I am in Tarantino fatigue after my Directed by... post on his work and couldn't pick it here.