George Clooney as a hit man planning his exit strategy in 'The American' follows a long line of assassins (and bank robbers and jewel thieves) who decide to pull that legendary "last job" before retiring to a hard-earned life of luxury.
Of course, everything always goes wrong as a lifetime of bad choices catch up with our antiheroes, who find that quitting is harder than it looks and that their last gig is usually final in more ways than one.
"I think I found a way home and this last job, that's how I get there." So sets in motion the year's most mind-bending film as skilled thief Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) assembles his dream team to crack a wealthy heir's subconscious. Dom doesn't care about the money, he just wants to get home to his children without being locked up for the apparent murder of his wife. If he pulls off this last, impossible feat of planting -- and not just stealing -- an idea, he'll be home free, thanks to the enormous pull of his client. Which leads us to the great debate of the film's end: Did Dom make it home to that perfect happy ending or not?
Idris Elba's stylish bunch of criminals -- including Chris Brown and Michael Ealy -- fall for the lethal lure of that mythical "heist of of a lifetime." They should really quit while they're ahead, but who can resist all that loot, even with a less than trustworthy contact and an Al Pacino-type dogged detective on their heels?
"Haven't I seen this movie before?" you may have asked yourself about 'Takers.' Yes, you have, when it was directed by Michael Mann and starred two of the world's greatest living actors in their first-ever screen match-up. Even though he knows he's being watched by LA's top cop (Al Pacino), master thief Robert De Niro decides to pull off a $12 million bank job and waltz into retirement. In one of Mann's best choreographed action sequences, the heist of a downtown LA bank goes disastrously wrong, leaving De Niro's crew dead, wounded, or on the run. As in all Mann films, crime pays, but at a brutally high cost.
If you see only one "assassin takes on one last job before retiring" entry, make it this iconic John Woo film. Chow Yun-Fat stars as the world-weary killer of the title, who falls for a woman blinded during a shoot-out and vows to take that "last job" to pay for an operation to restore her sight. Woo's crazily kinetic flick rightly put Hong Kong action films on the map and served Hollywood notice that they needed to take it up a notch or two. (Woo's trademark flocks of doves in shootouts optional.)
Having made his fortune as a cocaine dealer, our unnamed leading man (Daniel Craig) plans to retire from the business, but a huge batch of ecstasy, a vicious Serbian gang and a hot new girl (Sienna Miller) complicate matters just a tad. It takes all of the future Mr. Bond's wits to stay one step ahead of his many enemies who are determined to keep him from that fabled early retirement.
We know it's only a matter of time before hardbitten farmer William Munny (Clint Eastwood) takes up a gun again, and that anyone who crosses his path better be feeling really, really lucky. The aging bandit is hired by a group of prostitutes to kill the cowboys who cut one of them up: the simple job-for-hire becomes anything but as he squares off with a tyrannically corrupt sheriff (Gene Hackman) in an iconic showdown that costs him his best friend and his sobriety, but restores his self-respect.
This crime caper boasted a boffo lineup of acting giants -- Brando! De Niro! Norton! -- but not necessarily the most original plot: Professional safe cracker Nick (Robert De Niro) wants to retire from the biz so he can go legit with his jazz club, but is persuaded to take on one last job. Not only is stealing a priceless French scepter tricky, but Nick's got to make sure his new partner (Edward Norton) doesn't stab him in the back. This is one of the precious few cinematic career criminal who walks away with the girl, the cash, and his freedom.
Sylvester Stallone's about-to-retire hitman grows a conscience on his very last job, because A) the target's a beautiful woman, B) a rival assassin is also gunning for her and C) Sly can't help but play the hero.
Chicago jewel thief Frank (James Caan) lands a huge score that will finally let him settle down and start a family. He marries his girlfriend, adopts a child and everything is looking peachy, until he tries to collect his share. Then he's informed he's got to keep stealing for the Chicago syndicate or his new family will be killed; not exactly the incentive plan he was looking for. Since this is a Michael Mann film, Frank fights back: Cue explosions, shoot-outs and a downbeat ending.
The Wild Bunch
If you're going to go out, make sure you do it with style, like, say, hijacking a machine gun and bringing down an entire Mexican village in an epic, slow-motion gun battle. William Holden led the "wild bunch" of the title, a band of nearly obsolete outlaws who attempt one more score before riding off into the sunset in Sam Peckinpah's lovingly violent homage to the last days of the Old West. Forty years haven't dimmed this film's power one bit.