UK Script consultant on The Brinks Job (1978)

As a UK script consultant and leading UK script writer for hire, I’m a big fan of director William Friedkin. I was pleased to catch up with The Brinks Job recently, a true crime story and one of the directors most light hearted films.

This is a rarely seen film, and not much talked about. It comes hot on the heels of the directors’ Sorcerer which is now considered a masterpiece but was a huge box office failure at the time. Friedkin is a tough hard boiled crime director – see ‘The French Connection’ and to ‘Live and Die in L.A.’. But this is a funny, gentle comedy, about thieves on the lookout for a decent score who almost fall into doing the biggest robbery of the era.

Friedkin, and writer Walon Green had access to lots of material about the robbery and the robbers, but have treated the film in a light hearted manner, which probably reflects the true attitude of the characters, who were chancers, small time guys at best.

There’s plenty of detail about how the robbery fell into place, much of it pretty amazing and sadly rather believable, as we see the famous Brinks company selling itself as a fortress when in fact the Boston branch turned out to be an easy knock over for these low level burglars.

The robbers ended up finally getting caught, but they became even bigger folk hero’s because despite the FBIs best efforts, nobody could find the stolen millions.  After serving time, the men came out to the money (as far as we know).

The cast are a treat with Peter Falk, Paul Sorvino, Peter Boyle and the great Warren Oates (who takes the main acting honours) making up most of the robbers. It’s nice to see Gena Rowlands and Falk together again as husband and wife.  They all make the most of rather thin characterisations (most of the crew are ‘types’ rather than living breathing characters, but talented actors can do a lot with a ‘type’).

The film moves quickly and comedy is gentle, with a few chuckles and wry smiles. There is some suspense at times on the big score.  I loved the set design and locations used (take a bow the talented Dean Tavoularis who must have been on loan from Coppola…)

All in all, if it wasn’t for some bad language this could almost be a film children would enjoy, the knockabout nature of the heist and the pleasant comedy and broad good natured performances mean it’s an enjoyable couple of hours, and has a sense of innocence not seen elsewhere in the directors work.

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor  and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant and freelance script writer for hire and online screenwriting expert. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.