The Trap is Set

Entrapment entraps the audience with a ridiculously convoluted heist. The movie follows an undercover investigator and an aging master thief who end up pulling high stake jobs in the name of entrapment. Virginia “Gin” Baker is the investigator who poses as a thief in order to take down master thief Robert “Mac” MacDougal. Although I don’t often watch capers, I had several reasons to watch Entrapment. The main reason was Catherine Zeta-Jones. Since she became a sex symbol after Zorro, the movie takes full advantage of her sex appeal.

Gin sleeps naked, but it’s the sexy way that she glides through a series of practise lasers that became iconic. I recognized the scene long before I knew anything about the movie. The actual laser scene is tense and one of the more effective parts of the movie. Another curiosity of mine was the uncomfortable 39 year age difference between the male and female lead. I know Sean Connery was no stranger to younger love interests, but he was 68 while Zeta-Jones was only 29. A fatherly mentor relationship might’ve worked, but I cringe everytime they get intimate.

At least Connery made an impression in one of his last high profile roles before the new millennium. The 1999 Entrapment literally incorporates Y2K into the plot with an international heist at a Malaysian bank. You know it’s dated when Ving Rhames is Mac’s trusted contact and Will Patton is head FBI agent. The climactic heist gets especially ridiculous when they manage to survive hanging from a building. Then there’s the confusing ending where nobody is who they say they are. Entrapment is more of a guilty pleasure that wasn’t very well planned out.


Gin does a laser exercise

The Golden Dolphin

The Bad Guys is a family friendly twist on a classic caper. At this point I can never guess what DreamWorks Animation will do next. They’ve cancelled so many projects that I wondered why they greenlit something like The Bad Guys. It looked so childish and cartoony, but looks are deceiving. The Bad Guys is actually based on an even more stylized book series. The story follows stereotypically bad anthropomorphic animals who attempt to be good guys. The Bad Guys include Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Shark, Mr. Piranha, and Mr. Tarantula. It’s simple, but the movie is a clever parody of heist flicks. Even though kids probably won’t understand the references to the Ocean’s trilogy or Pulp Fiction.

As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew the art style was trying to emulate Into the Spider-Verse. The mix of hand drawn and computer animation is unique and the lighting does have the heist feel. Anime was also referenced, but the characters look as kid friendly as possible. The cast includes Sam Rockwell as the sly leader of the Bad Guys, Mr. Wolf. Marc Maron is the grumpy second-in-command Mr. Snake. Craig Robinson is the goofy master of disguise Mr. Shark. Anthony Ramos is the short-tempered muscle Mr. Piranha. Though male in the book, Awkwafina joins another heist crew as the obnoxious Ms. Tarantula, affectionately nicknamed Webs. Their banter can be funny, but excessive fart jokes hold them back.

Only the main characters are animals. Lois Griffin herself Alex Borstein voices the human police chief obsessed with taking the Bad Guys down and YouTuber Lilly Singh voices a clueless news reporter. Meanwhile, Zazie Beetz voices the fox governor Diane Foxington who denounces the Bad Guys, but has more in common with them than she lets on. Richard Ayoade voices the British guinea pig Professor Marmalade who represents the stereotypical good guy. When a plot to steal the Golden Dolphin award goes wrong, Marmalade suggests turning them good. Mr. Wolf starts to like being good, but Mr. Snake is the biggest hold out. There is a twist that’s easy to figure out and a climax that includes a meteor and mind control. Luckily The Bad Guys is good enough to pull it off.

39. The Bad Guys

The bad guys

A Woman’s Touch

Ocean’s 8 is another gender-swapped version of an all-male franchise. Since I was never attached to the Ocean’s trilogy, an all-female reboot didn’t bother me. Unlike Ghostbusters, which is too much of a classic to mess with. Ocean’s Fourteen was never gonna happen considering Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney wanted to end on a strong note. Gary Ross directs a new cast of only 8 well-known actresses. Sandra Bullock is Danny Ocean’s never before mentioned sister Debbie Ocean who also happens to be an ex-con master thief. It’s kind of lazy, but there needs to be an Ocean hiring a team for a heist.

Bullock and Clooney both starred in Gravity, but they don’t interact since Danny is inexplicably dead. Most of Debbie’s team are just female versions of past members. Cate Blanchett is Debbie’s blunt second-in-command Lou similar to Rusty. Together they plan to steal a priceless necklace from the Met Gala. Which seems a bit stereotypical for an all-female heist crew. Helena Bonham Carter is her usual cooky self as fashion designer Rose. Mindy Kaling handles the jewels as Amita. Sarah Paulson is stay-at-home mom and illegal goods transporter Tammy. Rihanna makes one of her rare acting appearances as hacker Nine Ball. Awkwafina is just as obnoxious, but Constance has valuable pickpocketing skills.

Anne Hathaway is the third biggest name in the cast who literally plays a famous actress named Daphne. She is the 8th member even though it seems like she’s only there for them to obtain her necklace. The sort of villain is Debbie’s ex Claude Becker who got her incarcerated. James Corden shows up near the end to investigate the crime along with a bunch of celebrities at the Met Gala. Elliott Gould’s Reuben and Shaobo Qin’s Amazing Yen are the only returning cast members. I have no major complaints since I already like most of the female cast. Ocean’s 8 is undemanding and inoffensive.

5. Ocean's 8

Ocean’s 8

Spin-Off of: Ocean’s Thirteen

The Bank Heist

Ocean’s Thirteen is a back to the basics grand finale. Unlike Ocean’s Twelve, the third installment is a lot easier to follow. Like Ocean’s Eleven, all the action is kept at a Las Vegas casino. The entire male cast along with director Steven Soderbergh remained committed. Including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, and Shaobo Qin. The titular Ocean’s Thirteen refers to Eddie Izzard’s Roman Nagel becoming a consultant and Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict being brought in as a last resort.

You’d think Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones would be the remaining two, but neither of them return since they were unsatisfied with their limited screen time. Instead Sea of Love co-stars Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin round out the star-studded cast. Pacino is the new villain Willy Bank who swindles Reuben out of a casino. Reuben’s significance is increased when he suffers a heart attack and Danny Ocean takes revenge. He plans to ruin Bank’s hotel by affecting its 5 star rating and rigging the machines in the casino. Together with Rusty at his side, the entire team gets a chance to shine.

Linus has the idea to bring in Benedict and attempts to seduce Barkin who plays Willy’s personal assistant. Saul plays the hotel reviewer while the real guy suffers many misfortunes. Frank sticks to the blackjack table, Livingston rigs the machines, and Yen contorts himself through an elevator shaft. Virgil & Turk work alongside Mexican laborers in order to create rigging devices. Basher is given several important roles to create an Earthquake and distract Bank from discovering who they are. Vincent Cassel is also back as the Night Fox, but he gets duped once again. Ocean’s Thirteen plays to the strengths of the original film.

4. Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean’s Thirteen

Preceded by: Ocean’s Twelve & Followed by: Ocean’s 8

With Interest

Ocean’s Twelve is complicated even by heist standards. Ocean’s Eleven was fast-paced and entertaining, but the sequel is too slow and more concerned with star-power. Steven Soderbergh returns to direct alongside the entire cast from the first movie. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, and Shaobo Qin all return as Ocean’s Eleven plus one. Ocean’s Twelve refers to Julia Roberts temporarily joining the team. After the casino heists, Danny Ocean and his team were tracked down by Andy Garcia returning as rival Terry Benedict.

He forces them to pay back the money they stole with interest. Leading to a series of difficult to follow heists in Europe. Some of which involve a mysterious master thief known as the Night Fox. Vincent Cassel plays French Baron François Toulour who steals priceless objects using gymnastics. Eddie Izzard plays another thief who helps them steal a fabergé egg. Ocean avoids arrest, makes a deal with Toulour, and attempts to pay back Benedict with a time limit. Lack of focus may be caused by how much screen time they give each character. Rusty has an increased role that includes a romance with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Isabel, a Europol detective trying to arrest the thieves.

Linus tries to take on a leadership role, Reuben works closely with the team, Frank is mostly in jail, Livingston is a failed stand-up, Basher is still very British, Yen continues contorting himself, Saul leaves since he’s too old, and Virgil & Turk continue to bicker. Danny is in a stable relationship with Tess, but Roberts has a reduced role since she was pregnant. There “so ridiculous it’s kind of clever” idea is to have Tess literally disguise herself as Julia Roberts. It only gets weirder when Bruce Willis shows up as himself. Ocean’s Twelve has too many ideas for a straight-forward heist.

3. Ocean's Twelve

Ocean’s Twelve

Preceded by: Ocean’s Eleven & Followed by: Ocean’s Thirteen

Are You In or Out?

Ocean’s Eleven made heist films cool again. 2001 was filled with first installments in successful franchises. I never watched the Ocean’s trilogy, because I’ve never been a big fan of heists. Luckily Ocean’s Eleven has more entertainment value than the 1960 original. A remake was considered for decades until Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh gave it a fresh spin. The Rat Pack has its familiar faces, but I knew the modern cast of Hollywood A-listers a lot better. You’ve got George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, and Carl Reiner all in one movie. Along with cameos from original cast members and TV actors.

The only character who keeps their name from the original movie is Danny Ocean. Clooney is effortlessly charismatic as the ex-con gentleman thief who plans a scaled down heist of three Las Vegas casinos. The job is personal since Danny plans on winning back his ex-wife Tess who’s dating rival casino owner Terry Benedict. Roberts has believable chemistry with Clooney and Garcia makes a good villain. Ocean’s Eleven consists of criminal specialists and trusted colleagues. Pitt is the perfect foil for Clooney as his constantly snacking right-hand man Rusty Ryan. The heist itself requires meticulous planning, surveillance, and deception. Damon is lowly pickpocket Linus Caldwell who gets close to the mark.

Mac acts as con man card dealer Frank Cotton. Reiner is another much older con man Saul Bloom who commits to his role. Gould is the wealthy casino informant Reuben Tishkoff. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are mechanic brothers Virgil and Turk Malloy. Eddie Jemison is the all important electronics expert Livingston Dell. Cheadle is explosives expert with an exaggerated English accent Basher Tarr. Shaobo Qin is a real life acrobat who plays a crucial role in the heist as “The Amazing” Yen. The heist itself is tense and full of clever twists. It’s satisfying to see Ocean’s team actually get to keep the money. Ocean’s Eleven makes every second count.

2. Ocean's Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven

Remake of: Ocean’s 11 & Followed by: Ocean’s Twelve

The Rat Pack

Ocean’s 11 is the original heist. Although I grew up knowing about the Ocean’s trilogy, most people forget the idea dates back to 1960. The Rat Pack was an entertainment group consisting of famous Las Vegas entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The movie is mostly an excuse to bring everyone together to make some money, sing some songs, and wear well-tailored suits. It was also the second to last film for prolific director Lewis Milestone. I didn’t live through the 60’s, so I only knew so much about the ensemble cast.

Sinatra plays World War II paratrooper Danny Ocean who plans a major heist with his fellow comrades. Together they rob 5 casinos on New Year’s Eve. I tried as hard as I could to follow all 11 members. Martin gets a chance to sing “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” as Sam Harmon. Davis Jr. entertains and has an important role in transporting the money as Josh Howard. Lawford is rich mama’s boy Jimmy Foster. Richard Conte has a heart condition as Tony Berdorf.

Bishop plays Mushy, Henry Silva plays Roger, Buddy Lester plays Vince, Richard Benedict plays Curly, Norman Fell plays Peter, and Clem Harvey plays Louis. Not to mention Angie Dickinson as Ocean’s wife or Akim Tamiroff as an unofficial racketeer for the team. George Raft, Red Skelton, and Shirley MacLaine all have fun cameos, but everything feels aimless. It was a good opportunity to see Caesar Romero without Joker makeup as the undoer of the team’s heist. It’s obviously wrong what they’re doing, but their comeuppance feels like a ripoff. Ocean’s 11 is only worth it for the Rat Pack.

1. Ocean's 11

Ocean’s 11

The Big Con

The Sting is a classic caper for the modern age. It’s the only heist film and the first movie with a female producer to win Best Picture. Another rare distinction is the fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Motion Picture in either Golden Globe category. The Exorcist and American Graffiti deserved their wins, but The Sting is one of the more underrated winners. The Sting is notable for being sandwiched between both Godfather films. Though the former couldn’t be more different. David S. Ward won Best Original Screenplay with inspiration from real life con artists.

The Sting harkens back to old timey grifting with snappy Best Original Score winning ragtime music, Best Art Direction winning Saturday Evening Post inspired 1930’s title cards, Best Costume Design winning period clothing, dissolves that won Best Film Editing, and a square aspect ratio. All that’s missing is a sepia tone. The Sting plays the long game by carefully establishing every aspect of a big con. Starting with the players that reunite the team from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. George Roy Hill won Best Director, Robert Redford was nominated for Best Actor, and Paul Newman saved his career after several flops.

Redford and Newman continue to work well off each other, but they’re not exactly the duo they were before. Hooker is a small time grifter who works with the older African American Luther Coleman before he’s bumped off. James Earl Jones’ father Robert Earl Jones makes an impression in his brief time on screen. Hooker avenges his fallen partner with the help of aging big time grifter Gondorff who helps him swindle large sums of money out of Irish mob boss Lonnegan. Robert Shaw plays the kind of mark you want to see get conned. They assemble a large team of grifters who set up a high stakes poker game and construct an elaborate horse race that does the trick. Until the FBI and several mysterious assailants get involved. Though I’m not always able to follow movie heists, I was genuinely shocked by all the twists. The Sting is a job well done.

The Sting

Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker put their hands up

The City Under the City

The Asphalt Jungle details the seedy underbelly of a dirty crime-ridden city. Similar to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, John Huston chose to director an adaptation of another book about the morally corrupt. The Asphalt Jungle was inspired by films like White Heat, but it’s really the former that emphasized the heist genre. Though nominated for Best Director, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Cinematography – Black-and-White, The Asphalt Jungle didn’t win a single award. It lost almost every category to All About Eve. Ironically both movies have Marilyn Monroe in common.

Despite only appearing in two scenes before she was famous, Monroe made a big impression with her charm, beauty, and acting skills. Though the rest of the movie isn’t overshadowed by her memorable appearance. The Asphalt Jungle centers around a jewel heist perpetuated by small time hooligans, a safecracker, getaway driver, and other criminals. Sam Jaffe was nominated for his role as the aging Doc in charge of the heist. Sterling Hayden is the Southern hooligan Dix Handley who agrees to the job if it means returning to his family farm. Jean Hagen plays his ditzy chatterbox girlfriend Doll.

Though the safecracker Louis Ciavelli is the only one with a family to think about. James Whitmore plays his friend Gus who acts as the getaway driver. There’s also bookie Cobby, corrupt private detective Brannom, and lawyer Alonzo D. Emmerich played by a morally ambiguous Louis Calhern. Emmerich is the one having an affair with Monroe’s character Angela. The heist is tense thanks to noir aesthetics and the fact that we got to know every character. Making the manhunt performed by John McIntire’s police commissioner feel justified. Much like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, none of the men can escape their inevitable fate. Each man is either arrested, shot dead, wounded, or commits suicide. The Asphalt Jungle captures crime without hesitation.

The Asphalt Jungle

Angela charms a cop

Stuck in the Middle with You

Reservoir Dogs started Quentin Tarantino’s career with a bang. Right out the gate, almost every Tarantino trademark is present. Harsh language, excessively bloody violence, 70’s era music, conversations about pop culture, and trunk shots. Although I’m a film buff (much like the director) who’s seen well over a thousand movies, I’ve actually never seen a Tarantino flick. Despite every movie aficionado I know claiming he’s one of the greats. I just knew the hard R content would be a lot to take in. So I waited until I was old enough and very recently did a marathon of every movie he’s ever directed. Now I fully understand what all the hype was about.

Reservoir Dogs gained attention as an independent production. It’s a heist film without a heist. Everything is driven by sharp dialogue that’s more like real life conversations. The titular gang of unknown criminals are first seen talking about Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and the ethics of tipping in a diner. They also discuss old TV shows, comic books, and say the n-word a lot (Tarantino’s most divisive motiff). The heist crew plans to rob a jewelry store that we never see. In the most iconic shot, actors new and old slow-motion walk to “Little Green Bag.”

They consist of Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Edward Bunker, and Tarantino himself. They stand out for their colorful codenames: Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Brown. The most infamous scene is easily the one involving Blonde’s sadistic torture of a tied up cop. While dancing along to “Stuck in the Middle with You.” These aren’t good people, but they can be very funny. In nonlinear fashion, one of them is revealed to be a rat. Leading to a Mexican standoff and the unexpected death of almost everyone. As Quentin Tarantino’s shortest film to date, Reservoir Dogs shocked it’s way into cinematic history.

1. Reservoir Dogs

Mr. Pink (left) and Mr. White (right) point guns at each other