Most people know that crime is bad, but that doesn't stop us from loving great cinema crime teams. We'd (probably) never condone their actions in real life, but we love watching them best their opponents in a battle of wits on the silver screen.
Of course, no battle of wits would be complete without elaborate plans that keep the crime team one step ahead of the other guys. And it's hard to pull off elaborate plans without key players hand-picked to fulfill certain conventional roles. We're not saying that criminals necessarily follow a set formula; after all, that would get boring over time. We're just saying that they do tend to set in motion similar characters, with the resulting chaos spreading out in different, awesome directions every time.
In case you're planning on assembling your own crime team (don't worry, we wont spill the beans!) or if you just have an interest in how they're assembled, here are some of the key people every crime team needs.
The Getaway Driver
We know that crime occurred aplenty before automobiles were invented; after all, every town from Cairo to London has had its share of pickpockets, vagabonds, and other bipedal villains of various sorts. However, as soon as cars flew onto the scene, they became an essential part of crime, made use of by everyone from unruly teenagers to gangsters smuggling alcohol during Prohibition to bank robbers trying to make a getaway after the perfect heist.
A good getaway driver has to be an expert at handling various types of cars; you never know what kind you're going to end up with - it might be a police car, an ice cream truck, or anything in between. He or she also has to be fearless, because cars moving at ridiculously high speeds and maneuvering around obstacles aren't exactly known for safety.
Sometimes, of course, there is more than one getaway driver. The Italian Job put three criminals into Mini Coopers (unfortunately fueling popularity of the snobbish little auto) and in Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist, every single person is known for his or her driving skills. Bet they had some heated arguments about how was going to have to be the navigator!
The Lock Picker/Safe Breaker
In general, people don't like getting things stolen from them. They tend to protect their things as carefully as possible, often making use of locks and safes to do so if the items in question are particularly valuable. And of course, a heist movie wouldn't be a heist movie unless the safe was top-of-the-line and almost completely unbreakable. We said almost, because it's no fun if the crime team is foiled in the end by a bad safe-breaking job!
The Italian Job brings safe-breaking to a whole new level, making it (and the sexy Charlize Theron as the safe breaker) a star of the show. According to movies like this, picking locks is part art and part science. Watching someone perform this craft is like watching someone seduce a woman - a little give, a little take, and if you do it right, a prize at the end!
The Demolition/Explosives Expert
People become criminals for all sorts of reasons. When it comes to the demolition and explosives experts you often see on crime teams, it's likely because they just really love to blow stuff up, and decided not to find a legal means to this end, such as joining the army or getting into pyrotechnics.
Ocean's 11 is a great showcase for a demolition expert - Bashir Tarr, played by Don Cheadle - who is destructive in a new and unique way. Instead of literally blowing things apart, he sets off a stolen "pinch," sending an EMP shockwave through Las Vegas and disabling electrical systems.
Other subtle uses of explosives occur in The Italian Job, where they're used to send a safe into a canal and later to send a safe-bearing truck into an underground tunnel. That's the thing about demolition experts on crime teams; they may like to make things go boom, but they also love style and finesse. You're unlikely to see them destroying entire city blocks, unless they mess up, or unless they're using the explosions as distractions like Simon Gruber did in Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
Just like every country needs some sort of leadership so that it doesn't fall apart, every crime team needs a mastermind who holds all of the cards and pulls all of the strings. He's the one who sets things in motion, gets all of the other players in on the game, and orchestrates things perfectly so that (ideally) things go off without a hitch. Or at least, with a series of minor hitches that make for a thrilling screenplay. In fact, the mastermind is so important that he's pretty much the only player who is present in every single crime team ever conceived.
While our culture does seem to have something of a fetish for making bank robbers into the good guys, that's definitely not true all of the time. In The Dark Knight, the Joker is the mastermind of this heist, although he also turns out to be a bit of a backstabber (see below). Simon Gruber is another example of a single-minded, obsessive mastermind. On the flip side are people such as Danny Ocean and Dominic Toretto, ultimately good-hearted masterminds whose crime is meant in good faith.
We're proud to say that the roles of women in crime teams have evolved over time; they're not just damsels in distress anymore, or prizes dangled in the faces of the police to distract from what's really going on.
However, that doesn't stop women from still being used as bait every once in a while, even if they're simultaneously playing other roles. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the perfect bait in A Fish Called Wanda, seducing John Cleese's staid, married lawyer character with her womanly wiles. Charlize Theron's character in The Italian Job also ends up being accidental bait when Edward Norton's character asks her out on a date. Though she does get to slap him in the end and take all his money, so we guess it's justified.
The hacker is a relatively new introduction into the crime team pantheon, seeing as computers have only recently revolutionized crime in a way similar to how cars did back in the day. Movies such as Swordfish, Die Hard, Hackers, and countless others show the carnage one man or woman can wreak without leaving the desk.
The interesting thing about this role is that movies make it much more glamorous than it is in real life. We're sure that this is true for other roles as well, but the truth of the matter is that working with computers just isn't as visually stunning as, say, blowing things up or getting into car chases. That means that they've had to dress hacking scenes up with everything from multiple screens to glowing lights to weird-looking code that's completely impractical to use. Contrary to popular belief, these tools do not in fact improve the speed or quality of a hacking; they are simply there to look cool.
Crime teams "need" backstabbers like they need holes in the head. That is to say, unlike the other people on this list, crime teams would be much better off without them. That doesn't stop them springing up like the rats they are wherever they're least wanted or expected.
Many teams, like those in The Matrix and the Italian Job, get to brave the ordeal of dealing with members turning coat, usually leading to the injury or tragic death of people with non-key roles. It just goes to show that you need to be careful when choosing people for your crime team - er, that is, if you were going to build one, which you of course won't. It's no use to fill an important position with a person who's going to get you in trouble in the end, or defect to the other side. Although it will happen no matter how hard you try to prevent it if it's essential to the plot of your movie!