Monday, April 18, 2005


Let me take a break from the war for a minute to write how disappointed I was with this movie, which I just watched on DVD. I'm only mentioning this because I absolutely love Soderbergh's remake of Ocean's Eleven, which I think is a masterpiece of popcorn cinema. No heavy lifting, no heavy thought, just a bunch of movie stars dressed to the nines, a great script, and a heist sequence for the ages, plotted and paced superbly.

I seem to recall a review which in a sentence nailed what's wrong with this movie: they made a sequel to the wrong Ocean's Eleven. Much like Sinatra's Ocean's 11, this film is essentially just a bunch of millionaires looking swank and chuckling to each other about how damn rich they are. Fun for them, not so much for us.

But all is not lost, because this gives me a perfect opportunity to list my favorite heist films. Now, to qualify as a heist film, certain marks must be hit, and that's part of the beauty of the genre. Much like haiku, the constraints inherent in the form make the subtler details all the more important. A heist movie must contain: 1) The assembling of a team (the safe-cracker, the driver, the demolitions expert, the master of disguises, etc.) 2) a filmic explication of the heist itself which borders on, and often crosses over into, the sensual. 3) Uh-oh, somethings happened that we didn't plan for! And 4) I'm sorry to have to write this, but it's true: No chicks. Women only exist in the world of heist films to mess everything up. Of course, as with all rules, there are exceptions.

So, my favorites:
Rififi (1955)
The Killing (1956)
The Italian Job (1969)
Heat (1995)
Three Kings (1999) (barely brushes the marks, but makes my list on pure coolness)
Heist (2001) (exception to the No Chicks rule. Also, two words: Ricky frikkin' Jay)
Ocean's Eleven (2002)

I'd also mention Reservoir Dogs (1992) and A Fish Called Wanda (1988), neither of which are really heist movies per se, but both of which deal very interestingly with the aftermath of heists. A Fish Called Wanda can also be seen as an argument in favor of the No Chicks rule.

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