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|Index||11 reviews in total|
Words almost fail me in talking about how much I love this film, this
very funny, very stylish portrayal of what was considered the robbery
of the last century.
First of all it could never have been done earlier. J. Edgar Hoover was not a figure to be satirized before May of 1972 when he breathed his last. Sheldon Leonard who plays him here and has him get it all wrong about who pulled the Brink's Armored Car Robbery, would not have taken the role, neither would any other actor. No one wanted to be on that man's bad side. Hoover was not quite the figure you see Leonard play here, though Leonard is fine in the part. Books and films subsequent to his death still really haven't got it quite right about him.
For all of J. Edgar's fulminations about the great Communist conspiracy at work in the Brink's job, the whole point of The Brink's Job is who actually did it. Six very ordinary street criminals, none of them violent felons in any way and one fence who declared himself in on the job.
The group is headed by Peter Falk who should have been Oscar nominated for his portrayal of Tony Pino, the group's leader and planner. You see The Brink's Job, Peter Falk will remain with you forever. A man without complications and hangups, he's a thief because it's his profession. He does have pride in how good he is though.
Some of Falk's best scenes are with his wife Gena Rowlands. She too is a woman who stands by her man. No doubt they came from the same hardscrabble background in Boston's Italian North End and she's completely supportive of him and his work. In particular I love the scene where she's bidding him off to work just like any other wife who's husband had a night job. Don't forget your screwdriver, here's a sandwich in case you get hungry, the scene is priceless.
I also love the scene in the restaurant where he takes her after a nice score. Falk is at the height of his considerable talents as he tells Rowlands of his plans for the Brink's Armored Car Company.
What everyone will love when they see this film is how comparatively easy it was for these knockabout guys from Boston to accomplish stealing over 4 million dollars. This score was so big, it HAD to be the work of a master criminal mind. The thing is it was, the mind was just not in a body where you would expect it to be found.
The others in the mob are Paul Sorvino, Kevin O'Connor, Warren Oates, Gerard Murphy and Peter Boyle who plays the fence. But my favorite in the mob and in the film is Allen Garfield who plays Falk's brother-in-law and sidekick who Falk keeps around for laughs. They have an Abbott&Costello like relationship with everything Garfield touches turning to waste product. My favorite scene in the whole film is when they decide to rob a gum factory payroll. Poor Garfield accidentally presses the wrong switch and he's awash in gumballs. Falk's and Sorvino's differing reactions are priceless.
A lot of the film was shot in Boston which in many ways is a city that tries more than most to keep it's traditional look. I haven't been in that city in about five years, but I daresay you could remake The Brink's Job today in the same area.
But if you did it wouldn't be as good, that isn't possible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Peter Falk leads a gang of small-time thieves (Peter Boyle, Paul
Sorvino, Warren Oates, Allan Garfield, et al) who pull off the biggest
robbery of the century, get caught, and go to jail.
The director, William Friedkin, and the screenwriter, Walon Green, do a fine and delicate job of balancing the three elements of the story -- comedy, drama, and tension.
Mostly it's comic, and the laughs are due not so much to the imposition of obvious gags (though there is some slapstick) as to the ludicrous nature of the thieves themselves and the job they undertake; not an armed robbery but a pasquinade. The amusing lines somehow ring true because the setting is working-class Boston, its brick tenements and skeletal wooden porches and staircases, and its stone streets and old cars and dilapidated clothing and its spent values. "Look at dis coat," brags Falk, as he hands his wife a garment of shabby fur bought with some stolen money. "Dat's genuine muskrat. It says so right on da label. I don't want to tell you what it cost because it's a gift and dat ain't right, but here's da receipt in case somebody asks you where you got it." The drama comes later, after the robbery is successfully pulled off and Peter Boyle is holding the $1.5 million until "the statue runs out." Boyle has already disposed of an easily identified fifty grand by flushing it down the toilet, enraging the others, and now he refuses to divvy up the remainder.
The tension is generated during the robbery itself. (Will they get the money? Will someone be killed in the getting of it?) And there is additional tension when Warren Oates and his co-conspirator Kevin O'Connor are arrested and given ten times the usual sentence for minor crimes, the FBI hoping that the pressure and the beatings will cause them to squeal.
That's a plot hole. The FBI is involved on a pretext and spends $25 million to solve a $1.5 million robbery because the director, J. Edgar Hoover, is absolutely convinced that the crime represents a link between organized rackets and communist subversives. Okay. That's understood. Hoover was a notorious bonehead and was always grabbing headlines.
But hundreds of louche Bostonians are being yanked in for questioning, and nothing involving any of the real gang stands out. Cut to Oates and O'Connor, having a meal in a diner in Tonowanda, Pennsylvania, on their way to Pittsburgh. A couple of state troopers walk through the door and arrest them. Well -- why? Oates is convicted of an infraction involving the carrying of firearms and gets a sentence of 20 years instead of the usual 18 months. The FBI is sitting in the audience, smiling with satisfaction. And O'Connor is given several years for equally small-time infractions and is beaten all to hell to get the story out of him. But how did the FBI -- or anyone else -- know that Oates and O'Connor were involved? And how did they know where to locate the pair during their peregrinations?
But, that aside, it's an entertaining story. Friedkin doesn't make the same mistake as Arthur Penn did in "Bonny and Clyde." Nobody is romanticized. One of the robbers has a loving family but that's about as far as it goes. When Falk is leaving for a job, his wife, Gena Rowlands, reminds him to take his screwdriver and gives him a wrapped sandwich, saying, "Take this in case you get hungry later." They don't STAND for anything. They aren't sucked into a life of crime. They're not giving society the finger. It's just something they've chosen for a profession. And despite their occasional clumsiness and pratfalls, they're good at it too. It's "The Asphalt Jungle" but the jungle is Boston and the gang is made up of goofballs.
There's something to be learned from it too. Brinks, the most prestigious cash-transport business in the world, was left virtually unguarded. We are continually rediscovering that security is never as tight as it's thought to be, and our infallible organizations are elementally vulnerable. If the Department of Homeland Security sends 100 explosive- and weapon-laden agents through airport check points, about 18% get through. Security is a very serious business and it mystifies most of us with its high technology and the expertise of its technicians, yet, as the sociologist Erving Goffman remarked with regard to primitive rituals, often the real secret behind the mystery is that there is no mystery at all.
I remember when this movie was filmed back in 78. yeah its dating myself. The movie was filmed at MCI ( Massachusetts Correctional Facility) Concord, Concord Mass. My father while actually working there was an extra. I had a chance to meet Mr.Falk and a few others as a kid ( I was ten). We had free tickets to the opening. I thought it was an awesome movie about bungling thieves. Most folks expected a serious thief/heist movie. Although based on an actual event. I found the movie comical. Although it didn't have Mini coopers jumping through a European city. It did serve its purpose as a good funny movie. A good buy as a bargain.
Compared to the hyped up, over violent fare that passes for crime movies, this movie is no contender. But it's a warm, funny, well paced caper flick about some North Boston Italians who stumbled on to the fact that the great Brink's was a paper tiger.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember watching this as a kid. I love the way these guys conduct
themselves after they've just committed one of the biggest heists of
the century. It appears that they will get away scot-free right up
until the very end. Even after the entire gang gets nabbed, they're
still portrayed as local heroes. Everyone loves them, especially Tony
(Peter Falk). "The greatest thief that ever lived".
FACTS: On January 12, 1956, just 5 days before the statute of limitations was due to run out, the FBI arrested Baker, Costa, Geagan, Maffie, McGinnis, and Pino. They apprehended Faherty and Richardson on May 16 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. O'Keefe pleaded guilty January 18. Gusciora died on July 9. Banfield was already dead. A trial began on August 6, 1956. Eight of the gang members received maximum sentences of life imprisonment; except for McGinnis, who died in prison, all were paroled by 1971. O'Keefe received only 4 years and was released in 1960. Only $58,000 of the $2.7 million was recovered.
I've been trying to pick up a VHS of this flick for 2 years and finally
won it on an auction. It was on AMC a few years back and I caught about
30 minutes of it. I was so intrigued that I started to look for a
chance to buy it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, a great cast with a young Peter Falk leading the way. Peter Boyle was realistic in his portrayal of the money launderer. Used VHS tapes are out there and although this robbery occurred in the 50's there is enough suspense and a ton of surprises for you. Sometimes a true story beats the best fiction a writer can come up with.
After the dismal box office and critical reception of SORCERER (1977),
William Friedkin went for a change of pace with this light-hearted
piece which, however, proved that his previous misstep with was no
fluke: in fact, his career never really picked up after that costly bit
of self-indulgence (even so, I’ve only just acquired the director’s
fair update of his own THE FRENCH CONNECTION , namely TO LIVE AND
DIE IN L.A. )!
Anyway, this concerns – in a somewhat uneasy comedic vein – the famous January 1950 robbery from the Boston branch of the titular depository of payrolls destined to various key firms; incidentally, the same events had previously been depicted in the 1976 TV-movie BRINKS: THE GREAT ROBBERY. Its coup is in the meticulous period reconstruction (which earned production designer Dean Tavoularis, already responsible for BONNIE AND CLYDE  and “The Godfather” films among others, an Oscar nod) – Friedkin himself had earlier demonstrated his prowess in this area with another comedy about an equally notorious incident i.e THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S (1968).
Interestingly, too, the cast of daring crooks here comprises several reliable character actors of the era – Peter Falk, Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Paul Sorvino and Warren Oates; 1940s Hollywood veteran Sheldon Leonard turns up towards the end as J. Edgar Hoover(!), but Gena Rowlands is wasted in the role of Falk’s wife. The comedy revolves around Falk and Garfield’s bumbling duo – the former is the mastermind and the other his often resentful relative/underling. After a number of ‘jobs’ go wrong (with Falk even doing a 6-year stretch in jail) or the ‘funds’ don’t last (one amusing sequence has them following a payroll van around and lifting a handful of money bags with every stop it makes – since the officer left to ostensibly guard them is apparently in continuous slumber!), they set their mind on robbing the Brink’s warehouse.
After studying the place from the outside (such as time of arrival and departure of the various employees, and their toilet habits!), Falk manages to get inside the building to get an idea of how it’s set-up; with the place left unguarded during the night, he’s able to break in with relative ease to look for possible alarm systems and determine the model of the safe – the former is an ancient device, but the latter is up-to-date and unassailable. Oates, a war veteran, proposes to dent its surface with a bazooka fired from the roof of the opposite building(!) – however, saner heads prevail and they organize a good old-fashioned stick-up (complete with the gang putting on grotesque masks). Eventually, the sum they make off with is over $1.5 million – which, at the inflation rate of the day, was considered the biggest haul in U.S. history…thus bringing the F.B.I. in on the case.
I’m not familiar with the facts of the real case but, here, the denouement is rather unexciting as Oates is brought to justice for another (minor) theft and, since he has a very sick sister and can’t possibly make the whole jail-term, he spills the beans on The Brink’s Job! Still, the gang apparently had the last laugh as, in spite of Hoover’s promises, a very small percentage of the money was retrieved over the years (as per the postscript) – and, following the lapse of their individual sentences, one assumes each picked up where they had left off… Ultimately, the film is O.K. (though curiously undistinguished among the spate of heist pictures made during this cynical era) – and especially disappointing given the intriguing subject matter and the welter of talent involved (including a script by THE WILD BUNCH ’s Walon Green).
A neat little crime caper, and I wonder why we never see it on any of the cable networks. Falk was great, as were Peter Boyle and Warren Oates, and believe or not, Paul Sorvinio was in this one too! Realistic, and pretty honest.
Whatever that word is, this movie is it. A who's who of nineteen seventies character actors. Peter Boyle was churning them out like crazy in the seventies, appearing in Slither, Hardcore, Where the Buffalo Roam etc. Alan Garfield and Paul Sorvino in one movie together!? Alan Garfield who was in Mother, Jugs and Speed, Slither, Busting ... and Paul Sorvino who was in Where's Poppa, The Gambler etc. And then Warren Oates as well!? The most recognizable character actor of the decade!! Warren Oates was the Steve Buscemi of the 70s. Cockfighter, Race with the Devil, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Border, Dillinger etc. etc. etc. The Brink's Job is funny and tight, with a once in a life time cast for 70s movie buffs.
As far as HEIST movies go, this one is pretty weak. Continuity is pretty lousy, there isn't enough character continuity to really feel like you understand any of the characters. Peter Falk is great, and he is one of the reasons its worth watching. Falk has some great lines, like "he'll be right back, he goin' buy to some saugages" or something like that... there are a few nice scenes, although they are entirely due to the efforts of the actors. Direction, script, and editing is pretty lousy.
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