The dream will never die.
Fortunately, it turns out there are some fairly idiot-proof tasks that movies pretend are difficult. Story structure demands things like clever arguments, plot twists and wealthy billionaires dancing through shifting fields of laser beams, and it turns out reality is decidedly less crazy about those things.
Where You've Seen It:Ocean's 12, The Thomas Crown Affair, Entrapment
In the world of heist films, art thieves are the Ivy League. The job requires a thief who appreciates culture, has the balls to steal something famous and, most importantly, possesses the skill set necessary to navigate complex fields of laser beams.
The wealthy art thief from Ocean's 12 does gymnastics through the laser beams that protect all works of art.
Not only do they outclass bank robbers -- with their regional American accents and bargain basement ski-wear -- not caring about money seems to be a prerequisite for stealing art. "Bored by how rich I am" is the only discernible motivation of the titular billionaire in The Thomas Crown Affair, who has presumably turned to this diversion after tiring of hunting humans for sport.
More than anything else, the art thief is drawn by the challenge. In Entrapment, another retired Bond finds himself in a love triangle with Catherine Zeta Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones' ass, and the mismatched trio have to spend months preparing to steal a painting even though the movie makes it clear that they both have superpowers (typically used to disappear behind moving trains for some reason).
Catherine Zeta Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones' ass learn to work as a team during laser beam practice.
Art heists are like bank robberies graded on the easiest curve possible. When two men stole Munch's Scream in 2004, the crime was considered shocking because they bothered to bring guns. Earlier this year, French officials marveled at the "extreme level of sophistication" displayed by a thief who stole $100 million of art by breaking a glass window that wasn't alarmed, and remembering to wear a ski mask. We don't expect people who work at museums to be on top of the latest trends in the criminal underworld, but those are all things junkies remember to do when boosting stereo equipment.
The main attraction seems to be the money, but according to experts, thieves typically have to "wait until news of the theft is reported in the newspaper to see the value" of the art they've stolen. Just like a teenage shoplifter, art thieves steal whatever is closest to the door, and hope it's valuable.
That's not the only move they've borrowed from criminal masterminds like Wynona Ryder and elderly Japanese people. The shoplifter's method of pulling stuff off the wall and shoving it inside your jacket seems to be the go-to method for swiping art from museums. As we've covered elsewhere, a French guy named Stephane Breitwieser stole $1.4 billion worth of art from over 170 different museums by sticking paintings in his over-sized coat. And a maintenance worker managed to steal the freaking Mona Lisa by hiding it inside his smock.
The most successful heist in the history of the art world happened in Boston, has never been solved and could have been planned by a 5-year-old. After using police costumes and fake badges to get into the museum, the two thieves had to subdue a grand total of two security guards, both 20-something "musicians," one of whom admitted to showing up for work stoned.
At one point, the thieves accidentally tripped an alarm that they somehow hadn't prepared to pole vault around. Fortunately for them, the alarm only sent a signal to another part of the museum like a glorified baby monitor.
I'd suggest that museums start taking their jobs a little more seriously, but their solution would probably involve charging late fees to any thief who keeps the art for too long, instead of the hidden machine guns the situation clearly calls for.
Looks just like the real Mona Lisa until she shoots you with her eyes.
Where You've Seen It:L.A. Confidential, Usual Suspects, Basic Instinct, Law & Order and every other crime procedural on TV
The interrogation room is a chess board where mentally dexterous cops try to punch holes in the carefully constructed alibis of master criminals. The police will often pair physical intimidation with clever mind games like "good cop/bad cop."
Of course they've got their work cut out for them, since most criminals can talk their way out of anything. In Usual Suspects, the most untouchable criminal in the world weaves an elaborate tale just to mess with the cops' heads, and in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone's character masterfully uses the complex psychology of the interrogation room to show everyone her vagina.
From a suspect's point of view, police interrogations are incredibly simple. If you invoke your right to an attorney, the police have to stop interrogating you. Invoke your right to remain silent and again, you might as well have caught the Golden Snitch, because it's game over. The interrogation room is less like chess than like an episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse ...
"The secret word is ..."
What's even stranger is that, when a suspect doesn't know his rights, the interrogation process often looks more like a therapy session than what we see in the movies. As this videotaped murder confession demonstrates, the interrogating officers don't try to bully the confession out of the suspect so much as give him a safe place where he can freely express his feelings (of guilt).
The officers get their confession using the old, "good cop/shoulder rub cop" gambit.
That's The Reid Technique, which uses emotional bonding, repetition and empathy to convince the suspect that everyone in the room totally gets that he had his reasons for shooting that dude in the face. Hey, we're not here to judge.
While the suspect is waiting for the bad cop to show up, he starts trusting the guy who keeps slapping him on the ass and telling him good hustle (I'm assuming). The longer it goes on, the more likely to suspect is to come around to the cops version of things, and the cops can keep it going as long as they want.
This is why the justice system decided to give suspects the interrogation room equivalent of Mike Tyson's uppercut. Research indicates that interrogations that go the distance yield confessions in up to 76 percent of all cases. While that might not sound all that impressive, that includes people who aren't even guilty. For instance, the guy the cops massaged and emotionally supported into signing a detailed murder confession in the video was later proven innocent.
From the justice system's perspective, that is the main problem with police interrogations: it's so easy to get a criminal to confess, you can't tell if they really did it or not, and the only way to even the playing fields is to make the whole thing turn on a few magic words.