How To Make A Heist Movie

This week the DVD Club is taking a trip to Rio Bravo , and we're inviting you along for the ride.

To get you nice and warmed up for the Western classic, we thought we'd take a look at the ins and outs of the Heist movie, and how you might go about creating one of your very own.

So mount up then as we ride into the sunset of our latest in the series of how-to guides, and remember, if anybody out there actually makes a hack job film out of one of these instructionals, don't blame us when it all goes tit-shaped.

Step One;

Find A Building

The Cliché: This isn't so much a cliché as a necessity; you can't hold a heist movie in an open field, for example.

Unless the protagonists want to heist /the field itself/. Wow, that'd be amazing. It'd be like Ocean's 11 meets Lord Of The Rings. We're digressing.

As we know from watching films, heists take place in grimy cities, in the middle of nowhere, in suburban homes or, occasionally, in shiny places like Las Vegas.

Appears In: Ocean's 11 (2001)

How To Recreate It:
Head for Blackpool with a digital camera under your arm and ten of your smuggest mates.

Point the camera at your pals, and ask them to make self-referential jokes about Julia Roberts. Or, if you don't know Julia Roberts, your nana.

Then do your level best to crack the lock on the fruit machines before the arcade security chucks you out.

Next: Pick Something To Protect [page-break]

Pick Something To Protect

The Cliché: Our protagonists don't have heists for the chuckles.

They need to be after something important, whether it's their imprisoned pals, piles of cash, or some good old fashioned human flesh meat to chomp on.

If you want to make a heist flick, you need to pick something desirable enough to cause groups of people to gather together to nick it.

In this week's DVD Club flick, Rio Bravo, a gang of crooks conspire to break their cowboy mates out of the old west clink.

Appears In: Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) / Rio Bravo (1959)

How To Recreate It:
Next time you've been grounded for trying to pinch loose change out of slot machines, tell your mates you've a pirate copy of Avatar running on the HD 3D home cinema you've just installed in your bedroom. And you've accidentally ordered 300 3D specs.

Then balance your digi-cam out of your bedroom window, and film the resulting riot.

While your mum's telling half the school to naff off, you can sneak out the back door. Perfect prison break.

Next: Create A Stronghold [page-break]

Create A Stronghold

The Cliché: Not all heists involve money. Sometimes, the thing being coveted can be diamonds, gold or, in this instance, tasty human flesh. But whatever the invaders want, it has to be protected at all costs. It's no fun for the robbers otherwise.

Bit of a controversial one, this. We had office arguments aplenty about including Night Of The Living Dead as a heist movie (with one staffer claiming: "By that logic, Aliens is a heist movie!"). But, you know, zombies are people too.

Appears In:
Night Of Living Dead (1968)

How To Recreate It: Next time your Mum pops out to the bingo, take the opportunity to break apart all her best Chippendale furniture and hammer and nail it over doors and windows.

Add a few booby traps if you want, maybe the odd landmine made from a juice carton and cemtex, or use your surround sound cinema system to blast Barry Manilow if anyone gets too close.

Now all you have to do is head down the pub of your rival football team, call their mothers working girls and hightail back to the fort.

Hey Presto, you’ve got yourself a couple of hundred drunken, angry, likely bloody football fans all after a piece, all hindered by your awesomely modified homestead.

Next: Find A Tough Guy [page-break]

Find A Tough Guy

The Cliché: A heist situation brings out the best in folks, and as this is cinema, the average folks involved probably used to be ninjas/special forces/wife beaters.

Although this happens in every heist movie worth its salt, very few criminal gangs are prepared for the eventuality, leading to the stunned exclamation, “Just who the fuck is this guy!?”

The answer is usually an alcoholic former war hero with a three day stubble, child maintenance debt and an itchy trigger finger. Watch out.

Appears In:
Under Siege (1996)

How To Recreate It: Hang around in a bar until the early hours of the morning, usually the time everyone is good and sozzled.

Now all that’s left to do is steal the shoes of everyone too drunk to notice, break a stack of pint glasses on the floor and pull the fire alarm.

Those who fall to their knees like babies as the glass shards cut their feet to pieces should be ignored, you’re looking for the guy who is pretty much tap-dancing his way to the exit, beer in hand.

If he manages to utter a witty quip before he exits, sign the genius to a five-picture deal.

Next: Find A Bad Guy [page-break]

Find A Bad Guy

The Cliché: No matter how large or small the movie heist, there will always be a snake in the ranks who wants the cash all for themselves. Your job is to find one .

Appears In:
The Usual Suspects (1995)

How To Recreate It: Everybody works with this guy. Go into any job anywhere and ask the lackeys who their version of this guy is, then invite him to a self-promotion dinner, and tell him to bring mother.

Once you’ve collected enough of these douchey denizens, stage some kind of soiree. During cocktails, enter with a gun, the person who hides behind his mother and offers her up fastest is your guy. If he has a limp, all the better.

If his mum is hot, tell him you want to marry her in return for a part in the movie. He'll say yes.

Next: Pick A Metaphor [page-break]

Pick A Metaphor

The Cliché: A movie heist is vary rarely about a movie heist. Come on, this is cinema people! Any screen story is just a garbled metaphor for something else entirely.

A case in Point Break; the real heist wasn't the bank cash, it was Bohdi robbing Johnny Utah's heart.

Appears In: Point Break (1991)

How To Recreate It: Pick the most handsome member of your crew. Sit him down for a five film bromantic comedy marathon.

Maybe suggest playing a drinking game, where you neck a bottle of Jack Daniel's everytime something funny happens. Then, we he least expects it, suggest you go skydiving together.

Next: Add Some Humour [page-break]

Add Some Humour

The Cliché: If you’re going to be on the wrong end of a heist and find yourself tasked with repelling the criminals, hell, why not have a little fun with it.

They say the best way to deal with a stressful situation is to laugh about it, and we’re not sure who they are, but we’re pretty sure they’re right, that’s why we keep a team of comedians close by, just in case.

Appears In: Home Alone (1994)

How To Recreate It: Watch every episode of Jackass and Dirty Sanchez, and all those similar videos on YouTube. Once you have a concept of the hilarity of human suffering, grab a staple gun and a pair of pliers.

Get the appropriate actor nice and lubricated, we’d recommend shots of Tequila, and then shout action.

Have your hero give the guy a good few staples to the forehead, chest area and if possible, testicles, then after he runs away, keep the camera rolling on your staple-adorned baddie as he rips them back out.


Next: Crank The Tension [page-break]

Crank The Tension

The Cliché: On the wrong end of a heist, not wearing shoes and only possessing the wit that God gave you, it may be necessary to engage in the kind of mind games usually only seen in the Premier League.

Escalation is the name of the game, and don’t forget that every time you graduate to a new sub-machine gun, or kill one of the enemy types, you should brag about it in the most American way possible.

Appears In: Die Hard (1988)

How To Recreate It: The first thing your hero should capture is one of the walkie talkies, then he should barrage the enemy with a volley of ‘yo mamma’ jokes.

For details on how to execute the perfect ‘yo mamma’ joke, see White Men Can’t Jump.

Now all that’s left to do is gradually change your appearance, language skills and grasp of world geography.

By the end of the film you should be a sock and sandal wearing, word inventing xenophobe who thinks London is a country in the United States of France.

Next: Get nasty [page-break]

Get Nasty

The Cliché: Sometimes when you hold a heist, you have to take a hostage. And where there are hostages, there's torture. And where there's torture, there's nastiness. But sometimes, a bit of music can lighten the mood, as proved by the jolly old ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs.

If you want to make a heist movie, you've got to embrace your dark side.

Appears In: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

How To Recreate It: Rest a video camera on your desk in a free classroom. Find the school bully, and gaffer tape him to a chair. When he starts making threats, get your DAB radio out of your bag and stick on George Lamb's radio show.

After about ten minutes of mockney catchphrases and awful jokes, the bully will be begging for his life.

Next: Pick A winner [page-break]

Pick A Winner

The Cliché: Some heist movies allow whole gangs to be successful - they're the heists that go right.

But when heists go wrong, there can only be one true victor. Whether it's Keyser Soze slinking off into the daylight, or Al Pacino finally getting to hold hands with Robert De Niro, someone always ends the movie smiling.

If you want to make a heist movie, you need to choose who's going to be the ultimate victor. Because it's your movie, why not make it you?

Appears In:
Heat (1995)

How To Recreate It: Remember the handsome chap you seduced skydiving? Take him to an abandoned traintrack, under the pretence of 'sharing some money.'

When you get there, break up with him, telling him you're going on a surfing holiday.

When he breaks down in tears and slumps to the ground, gently take his hand in yours, and ask him if he can lend you a tenner. He will, to try and win you back. Pop in it your back pocket. You held a successful heist!

Any heist clichés missing from our list? Any thoughts on how to recreate them? Let us know.

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