As crimes go, murder has undisputed reign over the true crime genre, with countless series and podcasts dedicated to the worst of humanity. However, for true crime fans in search of lighter fare, CNBC’s newest series, Super Heists shows there really is nothing like a good bank heist. Particularly when we have the facts necessary to put the pieces together – the who, what, where, when, and how. And perhaps especially when the culprits almost got away with it.
FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE THAT KIND OF THING…
Countless heists have been depicted on the silver screen. Occasionally, there’s a slight twist to the genre – a band of thieves may join forces to rob a casino, for example. Or the Smithsonian. Sometimes even the headquarters of some top secret government facility. But whatever their setting, they’re all bank heists, really. There’s always a vault (or otherwise impenetrable building, ship, or structure). And there’s a band of scrappy but brilliant antiheroes ready to rise to the occasion.
There’s something about this kind of crime that appeals to the public’s imagination. I don’t know when this public love affair began, but the legends of such notorious train robbers (surely adjacent to bank robbers) such as Jesse James and Butch Cassidy survive to this day. Perhaps it’s the perception that bank robbery is a thinking man’s crime. A battle of wits, so to speak – the robbers versus the best security of the age, as well as the cops called in to investigate. Perhaps it’s the recognition that the “perfect” bank robbery requires no display of violence. In a sense, making it a crime without a “victim” – at least in our minds.
Or maybe, deep down, we just all like to think that, if push came to shove, we could do it. We could outsmart them all. We could come up with the perfect crime and ride off into the sunset with millions of dollars to live out the rest of our days on a beach somewhere. Or perhaps I’m overthinking it, and the appeal really is just in watching people somersault through a maze of lasers, using James Bond-like gadgets to accomplish their aims.
…THIS IS THE KIND OF THING THEY LIKE
To that end, Super Heists may not be heavy on the laser mazes or the gadgetry. But it makes up for it in facts, crime scene photos, and interviews with the relevant parties. What kind of person almost gets away with millions of dollars? What does it take to catch them? It’s the central hook of the series. Each highlighted crime is presented from two sides – the robbers and the law enforcement officers who track them down.
The series also tackles cases that are likely unknown to all but the most devoted of true crime fans. The first episode features what is estimated to be one of the largest bank robberies in history – Richard Nixon’s rumored $30 million slush fund – leading to the largest FBI manhunt since the Kennedy assassination. The episode takes the audience through the crime. How the target was identified, the measures taken to thwart security, and the tiny details that led to the robbers’ ultimate downfall. The series makes good use of historical crime scene photos. And, of course, there are the interviews.
In contrast to the remorseless murderers depicted on most true crime shows, there’s something almost…endearing about the criminal mastermind at the heart of the first episode. Now in his eighties, Amil Dinsio comes off like everyone’s favorite grandpa. Or at least slightly quirky but charming next door neighbor. One can imagine exchanging pleasant conversation about the state of respective gardens and whether the forecaster was correct in predicting rain. He certainly doesn’t come off like one of the most (nearly) successful bank robbers of all time.
On the other side of the coin is the FBI agent who solved the crime. (In collaboration with many, many others.) This isn’t the grizzled detective speaking in grave tones about the loss of innocence. To the contrary; he seems as charmed by the crime itself as we are. At least, he seems amused – and more than a little impressed – by it. See? Bank heists are fun! Even the people who investigate them seem to think so!
Ultimately, while the series does answer the most pertinent questions, there are a few questions that remain. As is true in any real-life mystery. We never truly do get all the answers we seek. And, as a series, there are a couple of story telling mechanisms that are fine for a single episode but might get a little cheesy over time. But in a sense, even that’s okay, because as crimes go, bank heists (where there is no physical violence displayed in particular) are kinda…fun. So while a hint of cheesiness would come off as disrespectful in a true crime series revolving around murder, it more or less fits in with the types of crimes highlighted in Super Heists.
At the end of the day, is the series worth watching for true crime fans? I don’t know if it’s the type of show that will become must see TV from one week to the next. But when one needs a break from the heavier fare the genre has to offer, Super Heists is worth a look. If only because it is occasionally fun to ask oneself, “If it ever came down to it, could I do it? Could I get away with $30 million?” Realistically, the answer is probably no. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to imagine…every once in a while.
Super Heists premieres on CNBC on August 9.