Tag Archives: Charles Durning

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more

Sydney Lumet: the prince of the New York

Anyone who has an interest in cinema from the fifties, sixties and seventies will by now be well and truly used to logging onto the Internet or picking up the newspaper, to discover that one of their favourite actors or directors has died.

So it was this morning, when I got the news that Sydney Lumet was dead at the age of 86.

Lumet made some crap films and some great films. Mostly he made great films, including Dog Day Afternoon in 1975 and Prince of the City in 1981.

Both films examined corruption and the situation of people trapped in circumstances beyond their control. They also showcased the good and the bad of the director’s beloved New York.

Clocking in at approximately 240 minutes, the much underrated Prince of the City is based on the real life case of New York cop Robert Leuci, or Daniel Ciello as he is called in the film, played by Treat Williams.

Ciello is a member of a special unit of narcotics investigators known as ‘princes of the city’ for the power they wield. Uneasy with some of the corrupt practices going on in his unit, Ciello agrees to help an internal affairs probe.

It’s a complicated, dense, claustrophobic, drawn out story that mirrors the situation facing Ciello.… Read more

Cop: is it the best movie ever made of a James Ellroy novel?

I’m going to go way out on a limb here, and say that in my opinion the relatively unknown movie Cop may just be the best adaptation of a James Ellroy book to hit the screen.

When I opened my recent review of the 1988 film Cop for Back Alley Noir’s Film Noir of the Week with that statement the response was interesting.

Some disagreed with the merits of my choice. Others felt the need to refer back to what the man himself, Ellroy, had said about the merits of the movies made of his books.

I did a quick search on what Ellroy has said on the subject before submitting the review. There’s a lot of contradictory quotes out there. Whether this is because he’s changed his mind a lot or he’s out for a headline, well, I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

For me, the debate raised the interesting question of what value we should give to the opinion of an artist in one area (writing), when their work is translated into another (film).

I am a huge Ellroy fan and I think Cop works as a movie precisely because the book is not a dense, labyrinthine crime epic in the vein of LA Confidential and the Black Dahlia (both of which failed, Black Dahlia much more so, in the almost Herculean task of transposing Ellroy’s words onto the screen).… Read more