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December 28 2017

The Romanian Connection: The Kunsthal Rotterdam Heist

PART I: THE HEIST At 3:20 a.m. on October 16, 2012, the Trigion Security control center dispatched two guards to investigate an alarm trip at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam’s Museumpark. While...
August 10 2017

Tracking the American Bandito

Americans love Robin Hood stories but have produced few of their own. The thief is among the most charismatic protagonists in American popular culture. From frontier outlaws like Jesse James...
July 17 2017

Baby Driver: Why Edgar Wright’s Latest Is the Best Film of the Summer

For a movie that has accumulated such a high volume of accolades since its premiere, it’s a bit perplexing to find that Baby Driver is actually a bit of a difficult movie to review. Perhaps...
March 31 2017

Two Heist Stories, One Book: Lionel White’s The Snatchers and Clean Break

When I wrote an appreciation of Lionel White’s 1955 noir novel The Big Caper for my Lost Classics of Noir series on this site, I called White “the master of the heist (gone wrong) novel.”...
October 27 2016

Van Gogh Goes to Italy: Oil and Cocaine Do Mix

In December 2002, two burglars broke into the Vincent van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They didn’t use helicopters or lasers or any of the stuff art thieves use in the movies; they climbed a...
September 20 2016

Review: Gunshine State by Andrew Nette

Gunshine State by Andrew Nette is a heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark’s Parker, Garry Disher’s Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone....
February 4 2016

Taken! 10 Great Heist Movies

Ah, the heist. Who hasn’t thought of it—maybe even dreamed about it—imagining both the daring nature of the action itself and the rich reward should it be successful? Turns out...
December 11 2015

Bill Murray and the Wu-Tang Clan: The Perfect Crime

At this point, we all know Martin Shkreli as the price-hiking, pharmaceutical bad-boy that recently acquired the drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine)—a drug used to treat AIDS patients—and...
July 15 2015

Fast Paced and Expensive Tastes: The Money Trap (1965)

I’ve written about one of Lionel White’s novels here before (The Big Caper), and now I’ve got some thoughts about a film based on one of his books. White is seen by many noir...
March 11 2015

Justified 6.08: “Dark as a Dungeon”

Since we’ve known him, Raylan’s worst enemy has always been Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), the violent, mean drunk who sired him and terrorized his mother and him. Arlo was a petty...
February 28 2015

Under the Radar: Genre Movies You May Have Missed — Bandits

As a reporter says in the opening prologue, Bandits (2001) is “part Bonnie and Clyde, part Barnum & Bailey.” It’s farcical comedy, crime melodrama, and a unique love story...
October 27 2014

Bollywood Heist Film is Many More Movies in One

At almost three hours, Happy New Year is a film with the run time to contain its comedic diamond heist, Bollywood dance competition spectacular, high-budget action flick, and then revenge film...
July 2 2014

Armed Robber Leaves Heist in Tears

A gunman who held up a Days Inn in Georgia ended up leaving the crime in tears, despite walking away with huge stacks of cash, police say. In a surveillance video released by DeKalb County police...
March 27 2014

Lost Classics of Noir: Scratch a Thief by John Trinian

In the last of these columns I wrote about an author whose work I said would have to be represented in any of list of the great heist novels of all time. This time I’m covering another scribe...
March 23 2014

Lost Classics of Noir: The Big Caper by Lionel White

I enjoyed Wallace Stroby’s recent Criminal Element post about some under-seen heist films. It got me thinking about a sister post that would cover some standout examples of heist novels. I’ve...
January 14 2014

The Five Best Heist Films You’ve Never Seen

You may know the classics of the heist genre—John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, Jules Dassin’s Rififi, etc.(for an overview of the essentials, check...
December 23 2013

Fresh Meat: Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke

Parker: Slayground by writer and artist Darwyn Cooke continues his award-winning graphic adaptations of the Parker series of hardboiled crime novels by Richard Stark (available December 24, 2013). I...
December 20 2013

Gangster Cinema, British Style: Face (1997)

If The Long Good Friday (1980) is the British crime film that captures the entrepreneurial spirit percolating in Britain just before Margaret Thatcher's ascension to Prime Minister in 1979, a harbinger...
October 2 2013

Lost Classics of Noir: Violent Saturday by W.L. Heath

In a previous Lost Classics of Noir column, I wrote about a book that is an example of its author doing a genre jump: writing in a vein that is something other than that for which he/she is generally...
September 6 2013

Lost Classics of Noir: Death’s Sweet Song by Clifton Adams

Good writing is good writing. Able scribes known for their mastery of one genre often show themselves capable of seamlessly pulling off effective works when practicing other types of writing. I’m...
July 30 2013

Inspector Clouseau Will Not Be Pleased

Hmmmm, thieves hiding stolen jewels in face cream? Where have we heard this before? A member of the thus-named 'Pink Panther' gang—not slinky and mischievous felines after all, but a real-live...
July 17 2013

Jason’s Big Heist

Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece is one of the more well-known stories. Told in the Argonautica and other stories, it chronicles a group of heroes sailing into parts unknown, braving monsters,...
May 19 2013

You Talkin’ to Me?: Criminal Language

Criminal enterprises are dangerous, no, really, I heard that somewhere. The risks of the job, though, are part of the deal. Hardly a criminal would balk at the prospect of being arrested or facing a...
May 10 2013

How to Build a Heist Team Step 1: Piranhas

We here at Criminal Element are quite appreciative of a good heist tale. So if you have a crack team of criminals and con men that double as illusionists and magicians, you have our attention....
April 14 2013

Surfs Up: Point Break Remake, Crime Against Film in the (Re)Making?

You either loved or hated it, but either way it’s coming back around. On Thursday it was announced that Ericson Core will direct the remake of the 1991 surfer crime film, Point Break. The original...
March 17 2013

Lost Classics of Noir: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by Horace McCoy

In a recent installment of this series, I wrote that noir novels often revolve around one doomed character, and I described some of the different types of misfortunate protagonists. A sub-type of lead...
March 9 2013

Now You See Me: Magicians Turned Bank Robbers?

Magicians seem to be the thing this movie season what with Steve Carell’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone coming out March 15 and magician-cum-heist movie, Now You See Me, which comes out...
February 20 2013

Teasing Trance

Lots of buzz recently about the trailer for Trance, Danny Boyle’s new art heist movie starring James McAvoy as an art thief who’s stolen a painting and then, thanks to a blow to the head,...
October 24 2012

Sexy Beast is More Than a Gangster Film

The movie opens on an English gangster at his ease: Ray Winstone lays prone by his pool, baking in the Spanish sun. This is Gal, out of prison and enjoying the good life at his hillside villa with his...