Tag Archives: Peter Yates

The 10 essential films of Stanley Baker

Stanley Baker in Val Guest's 1960 thriller Hell Is a City.Welsh born actor Stanley Baker didn’t live to see his 50th birthday, but he left an impressive body of work. Like his friend Richard Burton, he escaped life as a coalminer for acting after a chance sighting in a school play by the casting director of Ealing Studios led to Baker’s first role in the 1943 war drama, Undercover. His rugged physique and hard grace meant he was most often cast as the tough guy in crime movies and spearheaded the evolution of the British film criminal from the gentlemen thief to more ruthless figures, often working-class, in films such Hell Drivers (1957), Joseph Losey’s The Criminal and Peter Yate’s 1967 heist film, Robbery.

Last weekend he would have been 88, were he still alive. To mark his career, I have a piece on the British Film Institute site looking at his 10 essential films. You can read it in full here.

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

Killing Them Softly

Last week I finally watched Killing Them Softly, a film I’ve wanted to see for ages. Living in Australia, it’s not often I get one up on my American readers in terms of seeing a major release movie before they do. But for some reason, Killing Them Softly is not out yet in the States.

So, for those of you who are going to have to hang on a little longer to watch it, let me assure you, it is well worth the wait.

For Australian readers, all I can say is get thee to a cinema now and see this film.

Killing Them Softly is based on the novel Cogan’s Trade by George V Higgins. It’s the story of an enforcer cum hit man who is brought in to investigate a robbery of a mob protected card game.

Higgins was also the author of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which was made into one of the best, if not the best, heist movie ever made (and which I reviewed on this site here in 2010).

It’s hard to exaggerate just how influencial the movie version of The Friends of Eddie Coyle is. Released in 1973, it is a no frills depiction of desperate men doing whatever they have to do to stay one step ahead of each other and the law.… Read more