Heist movies are incredibly entertaining. Even the bad ones. There's just a popcorn-munching satisfaction to seeing a motley crew of career criminals banding together to pull off a big score through elaborate and daring means. The more byzantine and convoluted the robbers plans get, the more onboard I am.
Which is why I've been digging Heist, Netflix's latest entry into the true crime genre. The show zips along with all the pace and urgency of a criminal on the lam, and its slick production values give it the feel of a modern heist flick. Especially as it doesn't draw out a single heinous crime for a whole season. Instead, the six-episode series devotes two episodes a pop to three different audacious heists.
The Money Plane follows a man who steals a fortune from Miami Airport. The Bourbon King sees a family man purloining the world's most expensive bourbon. And series opener Sex Magik Money Murder tells the story of 21-year-old Heather Tallchief who, in 1993, pulled off one of the biggest heists in Las Vegas history.
"How you build up a robbery is by taking time and observing," Tallchief reveals as she explains how she and her older partner Roberto Solis stole an armoured truck from a casino and sped off with over US$3million in cash.
She also stresses the importance of "sex magik," and "tapping into the energy that's expanded". If you're wondering, it's an act that apparently involves drugs, a tube of red paint, some candles and a couple of animal skeletons. While I'm less convinced about how crucial that element is to a successful job, I'll defer to her knowledge and expertise on this aspect of heist planning.
The show sits the perp in front of the camera and has them narrate while actors portray the action. These reenactments are really well done, helped considerably by the actors' uncanny likenesses to the actual people. Occasional real TV news footage is also used throughout.
It's all very slick and polished and its easy to get caught up in the fun. But while Heist shares all the entertainment and escapism of a heist flick, it's not a movie. It's real life. And people don't just enter into a life of crime unless things have gone very wrong at some point.
Thankfully Heist lets life in, providing crucial details that explains why they did it along with how they did it. In Heather's case it was a neglected childhood living with her hard partying, solo dad.
"I get a letter in the mail saying I'm divorced and have custody of Heather," he says, his bafflement still obvious decades later. "Who would give custody to this damn drunken fool, of a 3-year old child or whatever she was?"
He would shack up with a woman who "liked what we were doing, getting high all the time", but it was hardly a family unit.
"It was very, clear how much she hated me," Heather recounts. "And she would let me know; what a failure I was, my mother didn't want me, she didn't want me. I'm going to f*****g kindergarten!"
This explains why when she was 21 she fell for the much older Solis, a poet who showered her with the love and praise missing from her life. Unfortunately, he was also a murderer who'd just got out of prison and was still living a life of crime.
"I wasn't naive to the fact he was a career criminal," she says. "He was an outlaw. It was exciting."
She describes her heist as "a love story at heart". And as she tells her incredible, unbelievable, story about pulling off what the FBI described as, "one of the largest armoured robberies where the perpetrator was not brought to justice" it's hard not to blame that crazy little thing called love.
Okay, robbing casinos is an extreme example, but I'm pretty sure everyone did something silly in the name of love when they were young. Or old, for that matter.
Besides, as she says: "We weren't hurting somebody who was working hard trying to provide for their family. We were taking from a conglomerate. I wanted some opulent s**t in my life."
Heist's first episode sees the pair pulling off the job while the second shows the ramifications as they go on the run lugging eight heavy suitcases stuffed with cash.
They have all the money in the world but with the authorities hot on their trail Heather's world gets smaller and smaller. Eventually she flees both America and Solis to begin a paranoid new life as a wanted fugitive as the high cost of those stolen millions becomes apparent.
Heist is arresting viewing but the last word has to go to FBI Special Agent Joe "The Bulldog" Dushek, who sums up the situation all the heisters eventually find themselves in.
"You might get away with a lot of money, but are you every truly free?"