Heist is “a fun true-crime series with a lot of heart”
As the trailer says, think about it … if you had an opportunity to steal something, anything, significant – without getting caught or facing consequences – would you do it? Deep inside, we probably all have that urge or secret desire; some people follow up on it, others do not.
In this Netflix documentary series, we learn about three brazen modern-day thefts and robberies, each told in two parts, by those who were involved. To keep things morally acceptable, some of the participants, at least, were brought to book.
“We said from the very beginning that we wanted this to be a fun, true-crime series with a lot of heart,” said Emmy-nominated director and executive producer Derek Doneen in an interview reported by Forbes. “We wanted to unpack what drives somebody to do this and to truly understand them, you have to know about their lives up until that point.”
Doneen is part of the exec producer team that includes Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning short film Two Distant Strangers (Netflix). They each direct two of the Heist episodes, which gives an overall feel of enhanced creativity and independent visual styles, and keeps the stories separate and fresh.
Making Heist different from so many other Netflix crime doccie series, which repeat themselves and play the same stock footage over and over to fill the required minutes, is the content and narrative, which unfold in a linear fashion. Yes, there’s a bit of repetition, but not so much as to become annoying and boring. Simply put, the set-up comes first, followed by how it eventually all falls apart – even many years after the original crime was committed.
In the first story, titled Sex Magick Money Murder, a Las Vegas casino was relieved of more than $3 million in a cash-in-transit heist in 1993. Heather Tallchief was at the centre of it, seduced by her boyfriend Roberto Solis (one of his many names; he remains at large to this day). Heather successfully eluded the law for 12 years, and could well have done it longer if she hadn’t handed herself over to the authorities. Her reasons for her actions, before and after, are detailed in these episodes.
Next up is The Money Plane, in which Karls Monzon pulled off an airport heist in 2005 to the tune of more than $7 million. One of the gang broke the cardinal rule of not flashing the cash, and things didn’t go too well for him. Monzon did his time too, with a few years shaved off for cooperation with the Feds.
The third tale, The Bourbon King, is tame in comparison. Stealing bourbon? What’s the big deal about that? When it’s bourbon that sells for $4K a bottle, and it’s being removed from the distillery by the keg-load, it tends to add up.
Family guy and blue collar worker Toby Curtsinger did what everyone else at Buffalo Trace in Kentucky was doing: punching out at the end of the day with a couple of bottles here, a couple of bottles there. But good old boy Toby has the personality that craves being useful to others, so he became The Guy – the one you go to for stuff you can’t get anywhere else.
Toby eventually got busted, but there’s an outrageous twist at the end of this one you won’t see coming…”Heist is cleverly told, keeping its many twists and turns in reserve until the moments when they will have the most impact, and it is a lot of fun,” says The Guardian.
“Doneen and his team tell these tales in a fast-paced style that’s been compared to Ocean’s Eleven and Catch Me If You Can and the result is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into how targets are picked, the meticulous planning involved and the sweet, even if short-lived, glory of success,” says Forbes. “Every criminal makes a mistake, however, and it’s fun to see how investigators discovered the truth behind these history-making heists.”
Heist is highly enjoyable, insightful and entertaining. Even if we’re “supposed” to root for the good guys, it’s definitely rewarding to see the crooks get away with their lavish and ambitious plans – albeit for a short while.