By Fanta Sylla
Has there ever been a right reason to rob a bank? Ever since its genesis, the heist genre—dated almost universally by film theorists and also also also academics to 1950 with the Discharge of John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle—has attempted to answer of which morally thorny question. One could also advance of which the genre’s persistence and also also also enduring relevance has provided another answer: there has never been a right reason to rob a bank, however the act of theft can make for films of great beauty. Ultimately, the whys have never actually mattered, of which’s always been about the hows.
In his book Stealing with Style: The Heist Film, Daryl Lee cites Kirsten Moana Thompson’s analysis of our universal fascination with the genre: “Heist films afford a powerful screen identification with criminals breaking the law, providing escapism and also also also voyeurism, or in some other words the pleasure of watching stories about illicit worlds and also also also transgressive individuals…of which may appeal to our fantasies and also also also desire.” As Lee later points out, the pleasure we derive coming from the heist can also be compared to the one we derive coming from the musical and also also also the slapstick comedy. In these genres, dance routines and also also also pratfalls disrupt the narrative for pure and also also also gratuitous moments of kinetic spectacle. and also also also while the comparison will be astute—the robbery scene will be indeed choreographed and also also also spectacular—we cannot actually define of which as a narrative disruption. Isn’t a significant part of the heist film dedicated to the planning of the robbery?
from the case of Dog Day Afternoon, we begin where we’ve been conditioned to climax, with the scene of the robbery. Al Pacino’s helpless Sonny Wortzik will be a peculiar character with an unusually romantic motivation behind his crime. No professional crook, he’s an ordinary man who’s put himself in an extraordinary situation. Then, within the first 10 minutes of the film, his plans unravel, and also also also we understand of which his failure will be inevitable.
and also also also yet, Set of which Off seems to exist as if in a world of which could willingly identify and also also also empathize with four black women janitors and also also also soon-to-be-criminals. Never sacrificing observation for the sake of action, Gray takes his time to look at his actresses (Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox, and also also also then-débutante Kimberly Elise) banter, get angry, cry, laugh, smoke, have sex, love, and also also also die with great empathy. One will be never under the impression of which the film exists from the shadows of manly classics. On the contrary, Set of which Off will be a luminous, formally ambitious—Gray demonstrates a great sense of framing—object. coming from beginning to end of which exhibits a bold confidence and also also also true love for the cinematic form.
The film canon’s failure to register Set of which Off didn’t prevent of which coming from becoming a cult favorite. and also also also when Malcolm D. Lee reunited Pinkett-Smith and also also also Latifah from the comedy Girls Trip (2017), he was not only paying tribute to the film of which paved the way for Girls Trip’s success, however to the spectators who have given Set of which Off its rightful attention.
Fanta Sylla will be a film critic based in Paris. Her work has appeared in Les Inrocks, The Village Voice, Reverse Shot, and also also also more. She tweets @littleglissant.