21 April 2020
AUTOAPP FAVOURITES: Car heist movies to get you through this COVID-19 Circuit Breaker

With Singapore’s lockdowncircuit breaker” now extended, most of us probably now have an excess of time on our hands. Well if you’re stuck for ideas on what to do, we can help; this feature is part of AutoApp’s series of ideas to help everyone get through this Circuit Breaker Period.

Heist movies are one of the staple genres in blockbuster films. There’s plenty going for it – there’s the fantasy of crime minus the repercussions, there’s endless scope for thrilling action set pieces, and it’s not at all difficult to start rooting for the protagonists when they’re almost always the small fries sticking it to the fat cats. But you know what we think automatically improves a good heist caper? A solid car chase sequence. Here are our favourite car-centric heist films of all time.

Beware potential spoilers ahead!

Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

The Blurb: Legendary car booster Randall “Memphis” Raines (Nicholas Cage) thought he’d left the fast lane behind — until he’s forced out of retirement in a do-or-die effort to save his kid brother (Giovanni Ribisi) from the wrath of an evil mobster! But with speed to burn and attitude to spare, Memphis hastily reassembles his old crew and floors it in a full-throttle race to pull off the ultimate car heist: 50 exotic beauties in 24 hours — and the cops are already on to them!

Credit: Buena Vista Pictures (Youtube)

Why we love it: Probably the movie on this list we’d most deem our “guilty pleasure”, Gone in 60 Seconds is light on plot but generous with gratuitously entertaining action, and what can only be described as four-wheeled pornography. The climactic car chase is one of the coolest, thanks to a badass star car (‘67 Shelby Mustang GT500), realistic driving (most of the cast did a lot of their own stunts, including the powerslides and handbrake turns), and the orange colour cast is an emphatic intimation that the sun is always shining in California.

Credit: H. B. Halicki (Youtube)

Fun fact: Gone in 60 Seconds is actually a remake-tribute of a 1974 indie film of the same name, notable for its 40-minute car chase, the longest in cinema history. There are certain similarities between both movies: the premise (stealing 50 cars in the span of a few days), the hero car (Ford Mustangs codenamed “Eleanor”), and an improbably massive jump to end off the chase (the remake’s was movie magic, but the original film’s 39m jump was done for real; driver H.B. Halicki, who wrote, produced, directed and starred, compacted several vertebrae and was said to have never walked the same again).

Fast Five (2011)

Credit: Universal Pictures

The Blurb: Fugitive Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) partners with former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) on the opposite side of the law in exotic Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There they are hunted by a high-powered US strike force led by their toughest Fed (Dwayne Johnson) and an army of corrupt cops working for a ruthless drug kingpin. To gain their freedom and win this ultimate high-stakes race, they must pull off one last job — an insane heist worth $100 million. 

Credit: Universal Pictures (Youtube)

Why we love it: Because it’s the installment that brought the Fast and the Furious franchise into the mainstream – no longer was FnF a guilty pleasure only car enthusiasts enjoyed. Prior to Fast Five, the series had primarily been about tuner cars and street racing, but this marked the point where FnF became mainstream action films featuring cars, rather than a car-centric film in itself. The earnings reflected that: Fast Five made 80 percent more at the box office than the next-highest installment at the time, and the takings have climbed ever since. 

For the first time, Fast Five took the franchise out of North America (to Brazil), reuniting the main characters from the prior four films and fleshing them out as well. The dialogue became more humorous, the cars became more exotic, and the set pieces really started taking liberties with the laws of physics. I mean, how can a chase involving a bank vault being dragged through the streets of Rio de Janeiro be anything but pure popcorn entertainment?

Other worthy entries in the series include Fast & Furious 6, the original film, and the touching tribute to Paul Walker at the end of Furious 7.

Credit: Vanity Fair (Youtube)

Fun fact: The over-the-top bank vault chase at Fast Five’s climax which obliterated half of Rio was actually done using practical special effects. Several vaults were used, including a couple of actual four-tonne steel vaults, and a self-propelled one, which actually contained a cut-down pickup truck underneath the vault exterior shell. 

The Italian Job (1969)

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Blurb: Forget about the straight and narrow. Clever con Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) intends to go straight to the bank. Fresh from the slammer, he begins work on a heist that will either set him up for life – or send him up forever. Croker and his unruly lot of thieves take on the mob, the police, and the gridlocked traffic of Turin to rob a heavily armed shipment of gold bullion in The Italian Job

Credit: Paramount Pictures (Youtube)

Why we love it: The Swinging ’60s was a high water mark for the UK, with the success of the Beatles, prosperous economy, flourishing youth culture, and England’s 1966 World Cup victory all contributing to a decade of Cool Britannia. There was an indomitable feeling that Britain could take on anything, and that was reflected in the movie’s premise: a British criminal gang stealing a load of gold bullion in Turin, right from under the nose of the Italian mafia and police.

Apart from giving us one of the classiest opening sequences in cinema (Matt Munro, a Lamborghini Miura, and The Alps), and one of the most memorable lines ever (“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”),The Italian Job also gives us a delightfully zany chase through the shopping arcades, rooftops, and sewers of Turin, that perfectly shows off the Mini’s compactness and agility. It may not be the most spectacular chase but it’s certainly one of the most creative. Also, how many other movies can you name that end on a literal cliffhanger?

Fun fact: The Italian Job was nearly far more Italian in more than just its setting. Despite the immense marketing potential of the movie, British Motor Corporation refused to supply the Minis for the film. Fiat on the other hand, did, and offered the producers an unlimited supply of Fiats, Alfa Romeos, and Ferraris, and cash, if Fiat 500s starred instead. However, the filmmakers stuck with the Minis to retain the movie’s British flavour, and bought them at trade price (perhaps that’s why they met their eventual demise…). Nevertheless, Fiat did end up providing most of the other vehicles, as well as giving access to its factory and rooftop test track, while the mafia (the real one) arranged the blocking of roads to facilitate filming. All the traffic jam scenes in the film? Apparently those were real, and so were the reactions of the irate motorists you see stuck in them.