With the recent release of Tower Heist, we decided to take a look at all the requisite elements of a proper heist film. Get out your notebooks.
5. A Conversation About “The Life”
There should at least be one scene where two of the crew members discuss choosing a life of crime. Lines that will be uttered include, “I was never good at anything else” or “You have to know when to walk away.” From the conversation it should be clear that although they love their work, they secretly want to settle down and go straight. It’s very tragic.
6. The Heist
During the heist several things must go wrong. The new guy will get too aggressive and shoot somebody. A guard who was supposed to off will show up. One of the crew members will be caught by the police. In each and every case, this will allow us to see the leader’s improvisational skills.
7. The Escape
As any heist film makes clear, stealing is easy, it’s the getting away part that causes trouble. Here we see the crew switching vehicles, losing their disguises, and transferring the score to a safe location. If it’s harsh film, there will be a shootout; if it’s a lighter film, the crew will escape by completely tricking everyone.
8. The Betrayal
The betrayal typically occurs at one of two points in the film. The first place it may occur is when the safe is cracked open revealing the goods inside. Here one of the crew members (usually the guy added last), will pull out a gun and abscond with the loot, but not before purposely setting off the alarm so the others are caught. If the betrayal doesn’t occur here, it will occur back at the meet, when everyone discovers the goods have been switched.
9. But Wait…
The leader knew the unreliable guy would try and pull something, so he switched the goods in advance, leaving him with a fake, or even more insulting, duffel bag full of washers. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
10. Going Separate Ways
The heist films of the fifties and sixties typically had tragic endings, with many of the crew members winding up dead or in prison. Today we’re a little more optimistic, so the last shot is typically of a plane taking off, a car driving away, or an island. If there’s a problem with modern heist films, it’s that the characters are so clever and precognitive, they don’t seem to require an audience to root for them. But we all keep seeing the films anyway, just to make sure they adhere to everything on this list.
– Chason Gordon