10 Movies That ... Deal With Stealing - 7th Commandment
Reformation Rush Hour
So you like movies? Here's a list of 10 movies that deal with stealing. Listen to Pastors Ted Giese and Craig Donofrio talk about their picks on the Reformation Rush Hour program on KFUOam radio. Also these 2 lists of 5 movies are not necessarily always going to be recommendations, generally speaking this is a conversation about movies that delve into the topic of the 7th Commandment as found in Luther's Small Catechism, many/most of these movies are not salutary or beneficial. These two lists run the gambit from family films, to hard boiled action, to romantic comedy! Who knew movies about theft could be so versatile! Listeners will also learn that Giese apparently has a hard time keeping all the Die Hard movies straight.
Watch the film trailers and film clips for these 2 lists of 5 movies here and click here to listen to Donofrio and Giese's conversation about these films. The whole hour is dedicated to the 7th Commandment and the movies.
The 7th Commandment
You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income. Get the app! Get the book!
Giese's List Of 5 Picks
5) Thief (1981) Rated R for Adult Content, Adult Language, Graphic Violence
First up for Giese is Thief, a movie about a self employed safecracker Frank (James Cann) who finally decides to get out of the 'business' and lead a normal life ... but there is a catch, he thinks he needs a nest egg to do that and needs to do a couple big jobs before he goes straight. This is a common theme in films involving thieves and the mob.
Giese talks about why he likes Thief better than the recent film by David O. Russel's American Hustle from earlier in 2014. American Hustle banked on how cool and chic it was and how very retro it all looked. Thief on the other hand has all that slickness and retro look and is entirely authentic. The guys who made Thief weren't attempting to make a retro film and when you look at it now it has this added wow factor partly because of the direction and production. The director is Michael Mann - who people may remember from movies like Manhunter (1986), The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Heat (1995) - was also the executive producer of the TV show Miami Vice from 1984 to 1990. The other interesting thing is that Jerry Bruckheimer is one of the producers on Thief so you kind of see some of his influence too. It also has a small role played by Willie Nelson, a young James Belushi is in it too and he's not there for laughs. Plus the mob racketeer, and main villain of the film, Leo is played by Robert Prosky who most people of a certain age will remember best as the desk sergeant on the TV show Hill Street Blues.
Thief gets it R rating not really for overt sex or nudity but certainly for some very strong language and some graphic violence, especially at the very end of the film and while the movie is very glossy looking it hits at the unsavoury side of organized crime. It shows the mundane business side of organized crime was well as it's nasty roughness. It also shows how the deeper a person gets into a life of crime the harder it becomes to escape it.
4) Larceny, Inc. (1942) Rated
On your smart phone or tablet? Can't see this video? Listen to audio of the clip below:
Second up is Larceny, Inc. an oldie but a goodie. After getting out of jail for being a con-artist and thief Edward G. Robinson's 'Pressure' Maxwell wants to lead an honest life. He hopes to purchase a down-on-it's-luck dog track in Florida but he'll need $25,000. He tries to borrow the money honestly from the bank but because Maxwell has no collateral, he get's turned down or the loan. So he figures one last job - rob the bank and go straight! There's that theme again! He and his cell mate - also released from prison - and some guys he knew from his past decide to steal the money from the bank's vaults. In this clip we hear them hatching the plan to rob the bank. This fits into the category of getting your neighbour's money in any dishonest way, because the plan is to pose as business men running the luggage shop next door to the bank and secretly tunnel into the vault from the luggage shops basement.
Edward G. Robinson is playing against type normally he plays the heavy but since this is a comedy he's not really the heavy, the whole thing is a send up. It does get at another aspect of pulling a heist, which is keeping it a secret and the trouble keeping secrets get a person into. Movies like this still need a villain and in this case it's Anthony Quinn who plays a heavy named Leo - Jackie Gleeson from TV's The Honeymooners (1955-1956) is in the film too (He's the guy serving the coffee in this clip).
For a Scriptural example of someone who uses subterfuge in the act of theft you need to go no further than Judas. Judas is infamous for betraying Jesus to His death on Maundy Thursday but John's Gospel also records an incident where Judas says one thing while he's doing something else entirely.
"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” [Judas] said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it" (John 12:1-6)
3) The City of Lost Children (1995) Rated R for disturbing and grotesque images of violence and menace. (In Canada depending on the province it's either PG or PG-13/14A)
Third for Giese is a French film The City of Lost Children. Sometimes stealing things is more than money, possessions and income. In this movie it all starts off with kidnapping, however the whole film in every aspect involves the theme of theft. Ron Perlman from Hellboy (2004), and TV's Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990) and Sons of Anarchy (2008 -) plays a carnival strong man - who has a soft spot for a little orphan who he calls "his little brother" when the boy is kidnapped by an evil scientist he helps some of the other orphans go and rescue the boy and other children who have been kidnapped ... and why were they kidnapped? Because the evil scientist can't dream, so he kidnaps the children hoping to use them in experiments where he will steal their dreams for his own.
Just to add to the whole theme of theft in the film the orphans are part of a crime ring run by the women who looks after them at the orphanage, they are conjoined twins who speak their dialogue in unison. The clip shows them planning a heist with the kids ... Ron Perlman as the strongman comes in at the end of the audio clip above. So in this film there is theft of money and possessions as well as kidnapping and the attempted theft of the dreams of children. It's also recommended that if a person does decide to watch the film that they watch it in French with the English subtitles, it's better that way.
2) Excess Baggage (1997) Rated PG-13 for violence, drinking and sex-related dialogue
Fourth up is the über 90's movie Excess Baggage staring Alicia Silverstone as Emily a rich bratty girl looking for love from her distant father. Emily fakes her own kidnapping in an attempt to get her father's attention she had it all planned out, right down to handcuffing herself and locking herself in the trunk of her fancy car so that when the police found her the whole thing would look authentic. What she didn't plan for was the car thief Vincent (Benicio Del Toro) who breaks into her car just moments after she's locked herself up in the trunk. If the film teaches anything it's that theft is unexpected. Of course this is Hollywood so Vincent steals more than Emily's car he also ends up stealing her heart, isn't that adorable. Stockholm syndrome aside this doesn't generally happen in real life, besides Stockholm syndrome isn't romantic. Christopher Walken plays Emily's "uncle" Ray hot on their tail the whole movie which provides some memorable moments in the film. The movie really fits into the genre of Romantic Comedy. Theft in real life is never quite so funny or romantic.
1) Goldfinger (1964) Rated PG
Fifth up for Giese is the iconic Goldfinger. Almost everyone over a certain age can hum the theme music and maybe even sing a bar or two. The central theme of this James Bond movie is theft. In this clip we see Mr. Goldfinger discussing his plans for something big, to steal the gold out of Fort Knox. He sees this as an accomplishment akin to going to the depths of the sea or to the moon. Here is a good example of a movie where the tension is built up by pitting the person planning to rob the money (in this case the physical gold) against the person working to stop the theft. James Bond 007, works to help his neighbour protect their possessions and income by thwarting Mr. Goldfinger's plot. In this way Goldfinger shows both sides of the 7th commandment, both the breaking of it and the keeping of it. Just for fun the theme song for the movie is included above!
Donofrio' List Of 5 Picks
5) The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) Rated R for some sexuality and language
First up for Donofrio is The Thomas Crown Affair not the 1968 Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway version but the 1999 Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo version. Like in the original Brosnan plays Thomas Crown a very rich man who does cat-burglary on the side because he's bored. His specialty is art theft. He's also a bit of a womanizer. After Crown steals a famous painting by Claude Monet "San Giorgio Maggiore at dusk" the insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) suspects that he's the thief.
The whole film then is a kind of cat and mouse game between Crown and Banning. As an insurance investigator Banning's whole job is to help to improve and protect the possessions and income of her neighbour, little does she know that she's trying to help Crown keep the very painting he stole. In the end it turns out that the painting belongs to Crown in the first place. The painting was only on loan. Crown does however end up stealing something, Crown steals Banning's heart.
Like in Excess Baggage we see that Hollywood really enjoys the pairing of theft and romance, from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) to Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991) to Romancing The Stone (1984) Hollywood just loves it, again in real life theft is not so charming or romantic and generally speaking people don't steal their own stuff.
4) Die Hard (1989) Rated R for violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity
Second up for Donofrio is the first Die Hard film. New York City Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is in Los Angeles for Christmas and ends up at his ex-wife's staff Christmas party when a group of thieves posing as terrorist spring their plot to steal $640 million in bearer bonds stored in the Nakatomi Plaza's vault. As will happen over and over again for this character McClane is the right guy in the right place at the right time. Like Banning in The Thomas Crown Afair McClane in the original Die Hard is a all about protecting his neighbours possessions and income ... ok there's some property damage, explosions and bullet holes as he does it but McClane in the vocation of Police Officer is trying to stop the criminals from getting away with their crime of theft.
Off the top of his head Giese mentions a short scene that explains this idea of stepping up to the plate in a bad situation to protect others. That short scene is from a latter Die Hard movie Live Free or Die Hard: Die Hard 4.0 from 2007 (Giese miss-remembers Live Free or Die Hard as the third film which is actuality is Die Hard: With a Vengeance from 1995). Giese thought it was between McClane and his son (McClane's son shows up in the fifth Die Hard movie A Good Day to Die Hard) but checking into the scene it actualy turns out not to be McClane's son but rather a computer hacker, Matt Farrell (Justin Long), that McClane is entrusted to protect. Confused yet? Anyway here's the dialogue from that seen in Live Free or Die Hard: Die Hard 4.0:
John McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
Matt Farrell: Then why you doing this?
John McClane: Because there's nobody else to do it right now, that's why. Believe me, if there were somebody else to do it, I'd let them do it, but there's not. So we're doing it.
Matt Farrell: Ah. That's what makes you that guy.
This quote struck Giese as a very Lutheran answer when thinking about the question of why we take care of our neighbours - it's not always because we want too, the 'Old Adam' just wants to get on with his life and focus on himself the opportunity as a Christian is to think and act differently than that. The whole Die Hard series has this way of thinking and living at its core, in the character of John McClane. This makes McClane a good candidate, alongside characters like James Bond 007 and Catherine Banning, for being a fictional character who work to fulfil the 7th Commandment in service of their neighbour.
3) Despicable Me (2010) Rated PG for rude humour and mild action
Third for Donofrio is Despicable Me a movie with a criminal 'mastermind' Gru (Steve Carell) who like Mr. Goldfinger wants to pull off a big theft, something spectacular. Not robbing Fort Knox! No, Gru wants to steal the Moon and with a shrink ray he does just that! However, in the end this family film is about redemption, the three orphan girls he'd planned on using as pawns in his scheme to steal the Moon get under his skin in a good way and their love brings him around. They end up stealing Gru's heart and become a happy family and by the end of the film the Moon is back in the night sky and all is well making a Despicable Me a movie about forgiveness, redemption and rehabilitation for the criminal. Outside the world of 3D computer animation a person living a life of crime is more likely to end up in prison.
2) Catch Me If You Can (2002) Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language
Donofrio's number four pick is Catch Me If You Can Spielberg's film about the real life con-man Frank Abagnale Jr. A young High School student who in the 1960's perpetrated cheque fraud to the tune of $2.8 million stolen from Pan Am World Airways. Posing as a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and a Lutheran along the way Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) works to keep one step ahead of the law, FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) as he writes fraudulent cheques all over the world stealing not just from Pan Am but from others too. Giese remembers the moment in the film when Abagnale fesses up to his forgery and lies and even confesses to not being a Lutheran, the second clip above shows that scene.
Catch Me If You Can is one of those movies that on the surface presents the criminal life as glamorous, yet at the same time the drama in the film is driven by the fact that the Law is always on Abagnale's tail and will catch him just as Agent Hanratty warns him in the trailer "you're gonna get caught, it's like Vegas the house always wins." He does get caught - viewers know this at the beginning of the film - the films excitement comes in finding out how and when it happens. Like Despicable Me Catch Me If You Can is one of those movies that shows how a criminal can still have a future past his crime. Yes, Frank Abagnale Jr. ends up in jail but he eventually gets to work for the FBI's cheque fraud department where he helps people protect and keep their possessions and income.
Donofrio's fifth pick is Ocean's Eleven, not the 2001 George Clooney, Brad Pitt Ocean's Eleven but rather the original 1960 Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin rat pack Ocean's Eleven film with Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Angie Dickinson. Donofrio refers to this version as 'the real one!' Set in Las Vegas Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) is looking to take advantage of that old saying "the house always wins" by plotting to simultaneously rob five of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve and steal some of those winnings! Danny Ocean's eleven fellow thieves are paratroopers he served with in WWII. Because of the target of their crime the film seems to have a little Robin Hood element to it ... but Danny Ocean and his buddies, while seeking to rob the one armed bandits of Vegas, don't have any plans to give the money to the poor. In the end while their heist is a success the money goes up in smoke by a quirk of fate and they are left with nothing.
Vegas is a good metaphor for theft, theft like Vegas looks glamorous on the surface but when observed closely it proves false. Along with the obvious troubles associated with theft there's a lot of fear attached to breaking the 7th Commandment, fear of being caught for the crime of stealing the money, possessions and/or income of others, this fear is not obvious on the surface of the crime but becomes obvious once a person gives into the temptation to steal. The best policy in life is to learn to appreciate what is yours and help others keep what is theirs; remembering it is all gifted to us from God for our good use and for the service of our neighbour.
In the Radio Broadcast Giese and Donofrio didn't have time to mention any films in the Honourable Mentions category, but here's one for you anyway Woody Allan did a modern take on Larceny Inc with his movie Small Time Crooks (2000) it's not a luggage store but a pizzeria.
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For current movie reviews of films in the theatre right now by Pastor Ted Giese check out IssuesEtc.org, Where Christianity Meets Culture IssuesEtc!
 Scripture teaches that the end of time and Jesus' return will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2) meaning it will come unexpectedly.