Created By: KJMackleyOctober 7, 2009
Nuked

Recruiting The Criminal

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Trope
Sometimes the criminals make the best heroes. They don't have reservations on certain things such as "morals" and they have no qualms with going around the proper channels to accomplish their goals. But since they also have skills that have gone around the more natural education system they are brought in as a specialist.

There is practically a built in subtrope here specifically with hackers being brought in to do some uber-hacking for the good guys.

Compare Boxed Crook when they are offered some sort of deal for their services in exchange for a shortened or eliminated prison term. Sometimes overlaps with the Token Evil Teammate, depending on how self-serving they actually are.

Examples-
  • Garak on Star Trek Deep Space Nine was recruited by Sisko for help in planting evidence to convince the Romulans that the Dominion have intentions of invading Romulan territory.
  • About half the team in Leverage.
  • Michael from Burn Notice occassionally employs the services of the money launderer Barry and the gun runner Seymour for various jobs.
  • Parodied in Seinfeld where George hired the best freelance electrician around to wire a battery to a Frogger arcade machine he bought so he could keep his high score. The electrician was disappointed that it wasn't a heist, though George said if he wanted to he could steal the necessary tools.
  • In the pilot episode of Stargate Universe it wasn't entirely clear if Eli had been involved with dubious computer crimes or not, as the government was only interested in the hidden code he had cracked from a computer game.
  • Pretty much the entirety of The Longest Yard is the prison warden demanding an inmates versus prison guards football game and Adam Sandlers character being forced to recruit the various criminals with no promise of anything but a chance to bash into the guards and/or humiliate them.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • October 7, 2009
    random surfer
    The TV series Fast Lane had a crook named Aquarius the boys used from time to time to "procure" certain "items;" for example, a truckfull of blank US gov't paper upon which they'll counterfeit $100 bills.
  • October 7, 2009
    knave
    Mundungus Fletcher from Harry Potter. He's a known thief, but his ties to the underworld are valuable to the Order.
  • October 7, 2009
    Shellsh0cker
    What do you mean, "About half the team in Leverage"? Nate's the only one of the team who isn't a career criminal.
  • October 7, 2009
    Iron Salticus
    Do we really not have this one?

    Death Note has L hire a con man and a cat burglar during the Yotsuba Group arc. It is stated that he works with them on a regular basis.
  • October 8, 2009
    KJMackley
    ^^ I think this was one of those tropes that has been overlooked because Boxed Crook is so close to it.

    @Shellsh0cker- I've seen a handful of episodes and I knew that Sophie and Parker were outright criminals but I wasn't sure of exactly of Hardison or Eliot's pasts.
  • October 11, 2009
    KJMackley
    bump
  • October 11, 2009
    Catharsis
    Jayne from Firefly. Mal actually recruits him while Jayne and two others are attempting to rob him and Zoe. In a technical sense the whole crew is pretty much composed of criminals, since they're smugglers, but Jayne is obviously of the dirtier outlaw type.
  • October 12, 2009
    Ranger Six
    • Pretty much everyone in Martin Bishop's team in Sneakers has had a run-in with the law (or at least a higher authority) at one point or another. For example:
      • Whistler is supposed to be one of the best phone phreaks in America (side note: Whistler is also a Shout Out to the phone phreaks John "Captain Crunch" Draper and Josef "Joybubbles" Engressia).
      • Donald Crease got kicked out of the CIA because he couldn't control his temper.

  • October 12, 2009
    Merlo
    Have we not mentioned The Dirty Dozen?

    Also Hugo Stiglitz of the Inglourious Basterds. Or would he be Boxed Crook?
  • October 12, 2009
    Andyzero
    The standard Thief in a traditional Dungeons And Dragons adventure party. Turns out the guy skilled in picking locks and pickpocketing tends to do that for a living, who knew?
  • October 12, 2009
    Martin The Mess
    Dr. House on House MD recruited Dr. Foreman because he had a criminal record for burglary from when he was a poor black teenager, and House needs a guy to break into patients' homes to check for drugs and such, since House does not trust patients to be honest about such things.
  • October 12, 2009
    Infophile
    Truth In Television - Reformed thieves are invaluable to people designing security systems.
  • October 13, 2009
    KJMackley
    Just now realized... Han Solo of Star Wars. Fast transport and don't want any imperial problems, hire a ship captain who specializes in smuggling.

    Also the upcoming USA Network show White Collar is a story almost exactly like that of Catch Me If You Can, a criminal being recruited by the FBI.

    Oh yeah, and the TV show To Catch A Thief is about how to properly prepare for a possible break-in.

    I'm trying to work on the details on how this relates to Boxed Crook. Evidently we know that they are plenty different from each other, but there is also plenty of overlap. One thing is that Boxed Crook often carries with them the idea of criminals being an expendable resource, whereas this trope is purely about their unique skills. As well, the person in question is usually not evil but just... hell, maybe I should just call it a supertrope to Boxed Crook and be done with it.
  • October 13, 2009
    Chabal 2
    In the Judge Dee stories, Tao Gan is a master crook, dice cheater, pickpocket, and lockpicker. He is recruited by the judge for his many talents, after he saves him from an angry mob.
  • October 18, 2009
    KJMackley
    One more bump, I plan on launching eventually.
  • October 19, 2009
    OuttaTheBLAM
    In Kiki Strike, Kiki hires delinquent Girl Scouts.
  • October 19, 2009
    random surfer
    The Bad News Bears - Jackie Earle Haley as local tough guy and best all around athelte who gets recruited to be on the team.
  • October 19, 2009
    Some Guy
    This is the supertrope of To Catch Heroes Hire Villains.
  • October 19, 2009
    jason taylor
    How about "poacher turned gamekeeper".
  • October 19, 2009
    jason taylor
    Not a criminal example per se, but one of the British main commanders in the Battle of the Atlantic was a former submariner.

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