8. A Simple Plan
“It’s the American dream in a goddamn gym bag!”
What’s the plan: Deep in the snowy backwoods of Minnesota, Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton) and his wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) lead a common and happy life waiting for the birth of their first child.
While chasing a fox that causes a small road accident through the woods with his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and his best friend Lou Chambers (Brent Briscoe), Hank discovers a crashed small airplane hidden in the snow with a dead pilot and a bag containing $4.4 million inside. The titular “simple plan” really is simple: the three will simply hide the bag in Hank’s house waiting for the retrieval of the airplane in spring, and will split the money equally as soon as everything’s calm.
What goes wrong: After Sarah suggests a small sum should be returned to the shattered plane to avoid any suspicion, Jacob and Hank are surprised by old farmer Dwight, who sees and recognizes them while riding on a snowmobile looking for a fox that killed his chickens, until Jacob hits him, inducing Hank to finish him.
As Lou starts to threaten Hank because of the murder and Jacob makes an unsafe and unwise mention of “hearing an airplane” to sheriff Carl Jenkins (Chelcie Ross), an insane greed begins to guide everyone’s actions.
7. The Getaway
“That’s a walk-in bank. You don’t have to be Dillinger for this one.”
What’s the plan: Denied of his parole, Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) asks his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) to do everything she can to make a deal with powerful businessman Jack Beynon (Ben Johnson) for his immediate release. Finally set free, McCoy has to take part in a bank robbery in El Paso with two other accomplices, Frank (Bo Hopkins) and Rudy (Al Lettieri), chosen by Beynon, in order to repay his personal debt. With Carol involved in the plan as a lookout, the heist begins…
What goes wrong: … But soon everything goes wrong as Frank nervously kills a guard during the robbery and is shot by Rudy. The remaining three members of the team manage to escape, but when Rudy pulls out a gun on the couple to collect the whole sum, Doc shoots him and leaves him to die. Of course, Rudy does not die and begins to chase Doc down the city, forcing him and Carol to a spectacular and prolonged getaway chase.
6. Dog Day Afternoon
“I guess he didn’t appreciate your use of language.”
What’s the plan: Three common men prepare to rob a bank right before its closing time. One of them soon decides not to enter the building and the others let him flee the scene; Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and Salvatore Naturale (John Cazale) enter alone and begin to hold the bank employees at gunpoint; a negotiation begins between Wortzik and Detective Eugene Moretti (Charles Durning), while Sonny is able to use the media at his advantage to gain the attention of the everyday people in the crowd invoking the events of the recent Attica prison riot in New York.
What goes wrong: Just moments after entering the bank, Sonny and his partner “Sal” find out that the daily cash pickup has already taken place, and all the vault contains is a paltry sum of $1,100.
Deciding to steal some traveler’s cheques, Sonny proceeds to burn their register to make them untraceable, but the smoke alerts nearby police forces that soon surround the whole bank. Quickly turned into a mediatic circu, Sonny manages to use the attention given to the heist to raise awareness about some important issues that directly impact his everyday life.
5. Reservoir Dogs
“Shit, you shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.”
What’s the plan: A team of six professional robbers, whose real identities are unknown to each other and call themselves only by aliases, is assembled by mob boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son “Nice Guy” Eddie (Chris Penn) to steal diamonds from a store in the city. After the theft, all of the members are expected to make their way back to one of Joe’s empty warehouses, but when the first men walk through the door, nothing will go down exactly as planned.
What goes wrong: Establishing Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant scriptwriting right from the start, “Reservoir Dogs” is far more concerned about its characters than its action.
After the police busts in during the robbery (which we never get to see), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is left wounded in the hands of Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), who is the first to return to the derelict warehouse; then arrives the neurotic Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), who’s convinced a mole has been planted in the gang and has tipped off police forces; and finally Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), the psychopathic last survivor of the team, returns with policeman Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) hidden in the trunk of his car, ready to be tortured. Is there a mole? And most importantly, if said mole really exists, who the hell is it?
“It’s like you said. All I am is what I’m going after.”
What’s the plan: Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), an established criminal in Los Angeles, assaults an armored car containing $1.6 million worth of bearer bonds with the help of his team – Val Kilmer’s Chris, Jon Voight’s Nate and Danny Trejo‘s Trejo (funny, right?) – and new member Waingro (Kevin Gage), who fretfully murders a guard and escapes after Neil’s team tries to kill him.
Discovering the bearer bonds belong to notorious money launderer Roger Van Zant (William Fichtner), the team decides to sell them back to their original owner to make a profit.
What goes wrong: Escaped from Van Zant’s attempt on his life, McCauley is also identified by LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and his team of detectives as the culprit of the hit on the armored car: soon a relationship made of challenges, respect and even some reciprocal admiration is born between McCauley and Hanna, as the two will do their best to bring down the rival and get their way to the main goal, despite the strange bond originated by their particular “friendship.”
3. Rabid Dogs
“Let’s go. Bring the boy.”
What’s the plan: Rome, 1974: a gang of four robbers is assaulted by police forces during their planned getaway, in which one of them is shot to death. The three remaining men are Doc (Maurice Poli), the boss of the gang, the sadistic Blade (Don Backy), and Thirty-Two (George Eastman).
Still chased by the cops, the armed criminals enter an underground car park and kidnap pedestrian Maria (Lea Lander) after killing another woman, forcing hostage Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla), a man about to take his seriously ill son to the hospital, to drive them out of the city in his car.
What goes wrong: A direct inspiration for Tarantino’s debut film “Reservoir Dogs,” Mario Bava’s final movie focuses on a desperate escape attempt rather than on a meticulously explained criminal plan, but hides a second plan at its very core, making it not only a perfectly crafted crime thriller film shot on a budget, but also one of the most shocking crime movies ever put on film, all thanks to that chilling, brilliant and incredibly cruel ending scene.
“Keep it still back there, lady, or else we’re gonna have to, ya know, to shoot ya.”
What’s the plan: Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a man with a (business) plan, but he lacks the money. So, he brilliantly decides to arrange the kidnapping of his own wife Jean (Kristin Rudrud) at the hands of Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), a couple of “professional” criminals, trying to convince Jean’s rich father Wade (Harve Presnell) to pay an enormous ransom to have his daughter back.
But as soon as the two men break into Jean’s house and police chief Marge Gunderson (Academy Award winner for the role Frances McDormand) starts to investigate, everything falls apart.
What goes wrong: If “Blood Simple” was a blast, then “Fargo” is a masterpiece. Once again soaked in black humour, this Coen brothers film is yet another look at everyday American madness.
This time around, by the way, bad luck plays a major role in the events depicted, making fun of every single move of the characters involved. Add to this a police chief capable of brilliant but logical and reasonable deductions, some icy roads, human greed, and rest assured that any given plan will be doomed to go terribly, horribly wrong.
1. Jackie Brown
“Now that, my friend, is a clear-cut case of him or me. And you best believe it ain’t gonna be me.”
What’s the plan: Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant who smuggles money from Mexico back to the United States for criminal Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), an arms dealer. As LAPD Detective Mark Dagus (Michael Bowen) and ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) find out Jackie’s secret, bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is sent by Ordell to pay for her bail, and falls in love with her.
A plan is prepared to get Ordell the $550,000 he needs in order to retire: Jackie will bring the money into the States, while Ordell’s “girlfriend” Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) and his former cellmate Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) will collect the bag containing the sum from a dressing room in a clothing shop at the Del Amo Mall.
What goes wrong: The highest spot in this ranking goes to Tarantino’s most melancholic, grim and at the same time wittiest movie, capable of telling a great crime story delivered in the director’s well-known nonlinear fashion while containing the usual amount of brilliant humor and quotable punchlines.
Ordell’s plan will be put in jeopardy by Jackie’s decision to double-cross him and keep the money for herself, helped by a charmed Max Cherry, causing a spiral of intrigue, cold-blooded murder and betrayal that will put to risk everyone’s life and ambitions, proposing a new and authentically unnerving take on the traditional, big evergreen question: what would you do and, most importantly, risk for money?