How To Execute The Perfect Heist According To Movies

Times are tough. You need a little extra cash. You have absolutely no regard for the law. What do you do? If you’re a total badass, you plan the perfect heist.

And because Film School Rejects is dedicated to providing “news you can use” – and encouraging its readers to engage in all kinds of dangerous and illegal behavior – what follows is a handy guide to executing the perfect heist as dictated by some of the movies we love.

 Or, in deference to the new John Luessenhop flick opening this weekend, you can think of the following as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Takers.

7. Never perform “one last job”
Whatever you do, never refer to your next heist as the “one last job” that’s going to let you settle your gambling debts and retire in comfort, go home to your kids, buy your boyfriend that sex change, or whatever it is you plan to do. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching countless heist flicks, it’s that merely uttering the phrase “one last job” is enough to paint a huge target on your ass. And fate is guaranteed to kick it.

6. Know who you’re stealing from
Never steal from someone without a sense of humor. Some rich folks are just so damned stingy that the sight of red ink on their ledgers makes them … well … see red. And if they’re well-connected enough, they will make you wish you’d never stolen from them.

Consider the character of Van Sant in Heat. He’s a high-rolling money launderer who doesn’t appreciate having his $1.6 million in bearer bonds yoinked by Robert De Niro. De Niro is actually stupid enough to think he can sell the bonds back to Van Sant. He should’ve known that approaching Van Sant would only piss him off, bringing the full weight of an angry Henry Rollins down on his head.

5. Vet your teammates
Do you have balls big enough to walk into a bank, a jewelry store or a gold-bullion laden airliner without thorough confidence that each and every member of your crew is dependable? If you do, you’re an idiot.

You’ve got to know – beyond any doubt – that none of your teammates is a psycho loose cannon (see Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Reservoir Dogs), an undercover cop (again, Reservoir Dogs), or a double-crosser. If you want a consummate example of what comes of not vetting your crew, pay close attention to Gene Hackman’s sad clusterfuck in Heist. The guy gets fucked over by his investor, his investor’s porn-stache wearing bastard nephew, and his own wife. In fact, he seems to spend more effort getting himself unfucked than he does on the heist itself.

4. Know the escape route
Once you’ve gotten the goods, you’ve gotta get away. And that means you need to know every last inch of the terrain on your getaway route. There’s no room for slackin’ here. Consider The Italian Job. No, not the 2003 remake. I mean the real Italian Job starring Michael Caine. Those guys had a real slick escape planned, including a cleverly engineered traffic jam in downtown Turin, a race across rooftops and through sewers in a pack of Minis, and their own damned theme song fer chrissake.

All this planning was for naught, because they neglected to account for the last leg of their escape route, which involved hauling ass in a bus on a winding Alpine road. It’s not good enough to have an escape plan that 9/10ths pure genius, 1/10th stupid.

3. Don’t be afraid to spill a little blood
Do you know why Al Pacino totally screws up his big score in Dog Day Afternoon? Aside from a general lack of experience and competence, he’s too much of a nice guy. His hostages don’t snap to it and give him what he wants because he’s all mamby-pamby, allowing them potty breaks in mid-robbery and shit. What the hell? Harvey Keitel’s advice in Reservoir Dogs bears repeating here: “If you get a customer, or an employee, who thinks he’s Charles Bronson, take the butt of your gun and smash their nose in.”

2. Kill your teammates
This is possibly the toughest piece of advice to swallow. After a successful heist, you’ll be feeling the euphoria that comes from a job well done, and probably some affection for the teammates who made it all possible. Set those warm and fuzzy feelings and immediately cap every last one of ’em. De Niro had the right idea in Goodfellas. After the Lufthansa job, he got nervous and started whacking his partners-in-crime one after the other.

The only problem was he took his sweet time about it and gave Ray Liotta the opportunity to reconsider his loyalties. The best method is the just-in-time approach employed by The Joker in The Dark Knight. The instant one of his bank-robbing crew has fulfilled his function, he gets a slug in the brain. Brilliant.

1. Spend your loot wisely
Now that you’ve got the goods and have eliminated all threats, you can relax, right? Wrong. Countless movie heists have unraveled because the thieves got cocky. Here are some helpful hints for avoiding a similar fate: If you’ve stolen rare jewels, don’t pull a Rififi and give ’em to your significant other to wear in public. Don’t pull a Dead Presidents and start buying Cadillacs and Christmas gifts for every one you know. And whatever you do, don’t pull a Gun Crazy and fritter away your nice, traceable bills.

That’s all we’ve got. Good luck, good hunting, and if you make it out alive and wealthy, don’t forget to slip us a few fazools.

How would you execute your heist?

J.L. Sosa is a freelance writer, photographer and horror filmmaker. He's burdened with an irrational fear of spiders and clowns. He loves (in descending order of magnitude) his girlfriend, his pets and spinach.

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