movie review: The Brink’s Job (1978)

What did you watch? The 1978 crime caper, The Brink’s Job. 

I can understand why. We might enter a recession soon thanks to the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates to curb inflation. Getting a job in bank security is a good idea. Was this an onboarding video? No. 

An old timey bank robbery, huh? Which happened 20 or so years prior to the movie’s release? I guess people had long forgotten and this was a “did you remember way back when” kind of movie… NO, actually, get this: this is one of FOUR movies about the same big bank heist. 

Yeah, that’s right. In 1950 some guys broke into the heavily armed & guarded cash drop off building in Boston for the famed security company. It would be the largest heist for decades. Maybe because of how brazen it was, or that it was the late 70’s and Happy Days was a hit and the 50’s were “in,” maybe very little happened in American between 1950 and 1978, I don’t know. (Kids, you know how the 80’s have reigned supreme pretty much since 2000-now? You know how everything is all about the 1980’s? In the 1980’s, our movies and throwbacks were about the 50’s nuclear family and greasers and hot rods. Don’t believe that everyone was stylish and proper like they’re feature in Mad Men.) 

One of the movies about this came out before the real-life culprits were caught. Maybe I’ll track down a copy of that one, it would be interesting to see a take about this story before they knew who done it. In the meantime, we have “The Brink’s Job,” which has an all-star cast led by Peter Falk (Columbo) and Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein), and directed by William Friedkin, who had already given the world The French Connection and The Exorcist when he took on this true story. 

Falk is an ex-con who is approached by some of his former crew to stake out and see how far they can go with robbing the Brink’s Company after they easily rob an armored car, an event that never makes the news, likely because of the embarrassment the security company would face. With a little bit of scoping in and about the building, the team realizes that they could probably get inside the security company’s vault and get away with a sizeable amount of money. 

That’s the movie, for the most part. It’s a procedural from the criminal point of view, led by the then most popular TV detective, Falk’s Columbo. Falk is the planner who discovers that nearly every security stop and protocol gets less effective and non-existent the further he gets toward the vault. This would be encouraging except for the clumsy and violent dummies that Falk’s brother has recruited to assist in the heist.   

Wow, sounds like this plot has potential! I imagine that this was a rollicking fun and tense “how’d they get away with it” adventure with hilarious comeuppances for our wacky bunch of back robber protagonists! You’d think so, right? This ends up being a pretty flat movie overall. Even Friedkin thought it didn’t live up to the potential. Thinks HAPPEN, that’s for certain. I did enjoy Falk’s recon into the bank, the disbelief as bags of money are dropped onto tables in front of him, a stranger, and left unattended. Sure, things go wrong as they do in a robbery movie, but it’s rarely suspenseful as it should be. I was on the edge of my seat for the heists, both silly and serious, in Sneakers, as opposed to this kind of bland depiction of a real life robbery. Maybe real life events aren’t that interesting because the actual events seem mundane when carried out as they were. Then again, Goodfellas was based on another heist, and that’s a tense movie, so maybe this talented group of people behind & in front of the camera just didn’t get away with it like you’d hope. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, which as a period piece is understandable to why it was nominated. 

I think the blandness sets in AFTER the robbery, where the follow up to the characters and how they’re caught seems to have a few gaps. Two of the characters are caught in an unrelated robbery some years later, and it eventually leads to some bickering between the rest of the accomplices over how they’ll defend themselves from Johnny Law before they’re eventually arrested. As they’re being led up the steps of the police station, a large crowd has gathered. A tween boy shouts from the front of the line that Falk is a HERO, and I just don’t see how in this movie. Falk’s character doesn’t seem to stand for anything, just a basic burglar who happened upon a surprisingly easy score for him and his dimwitted pals. People were rooting for Bonnie & Clyde in the Warren Beatty movie earlier that decade, another stylish period piece where I guess that famed murderous couple were spitting in the face of The Law that did nothing to protect people from how the Depression developed and ruined American lives. Here, Falk’s a bank robber in the 50’s, post war Eisenhower America, and maybe he almost got away with it. If you’ve seen this movie and think it was more exciting than what I’ve described, please let me know. 

You’re no fun. I thought you liked crime movies! And true crime! I do. If you want to see a story about a real heist that’s so bizarre you can’t believe it as it’s being described, PLEASE watch This Is A Robbery on Netflix. It’s a documentary about another large heist, for paintings, none of which have turned up 30+ years later. I’ve watched it several times and I think it’s amazingly well done. 

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