Wotcha, me old china
. How's your Ruby? Bit 'ot innit? Well, each to 'is own self. Me, I luv 'em.
Lemme tell ya 'baht a little caper that the criminal fraternity used to play in back in the day. You know, when people smoked that 'ganja
or 'ad girls' 'air
The blag. Now, this ain't what it means today
. This weren't no getting access with a high-class set of bluffs
. And it ain't some fancy name for your blog
. A blag was an armed robbery done right
, done old-school. Sometimes we done over the bank itself but more likely was tooling up a few villains to do over the security van moving the pay packets between em. One variant was them little sub-Post Offices that usually 'ad one pensioner serving and no thick glass, no thing. Piece of piss, that.
See, before you had your fancy-schmancy credit cards and online banking, you had all your money in readies. Proper cash.
So to get this money from the banks out to the works, they drove it about in security vans. Amateur transit-jobs squired about by flabby ex-Old Bill done for being on the take along with herberts thinking they was Bruce Lee. They'd 'ave a shatter-proof windscreen and a lockbox but none of your exploding coloured-dyes and time locks.
If you knew where the van was going to be and when (there were ways of getting that- like discovering someone at the company liked his girlie mags and making the consequences clear if he didn't help you
), you could turn it over. This is what was called a "cash-in-transit robbery".
What you did then was get your sawn-off
and some pickaxe 'andles, then attack it, Robin Hood
/Lawrence of Arabia style, making sure your faces were covered
. You coshed the guards
(you didn't shoot anyone, no siree. Not back then
) and slung yer hook with the take before the Sweeney showed up
. They were armed and not very nice
Of course, then you had to make sure no-one turned you in before you ended up in the Costa del Sol, sipping champers with your lovely lady. 'specially, you had to watch out for the big crooks
Kind of dead now, cos of all the DNA and what not
. Those were the days.
Translation into plain English:
A type of typically British Crime Caper
revolving around the robbery of an armoured car carrying a company's payroll. For obvious reasons, it will be set in more primitive times when workers received a pay envelope
(full of cash) rather than a pay cheque
, necessitating the delivery of said cash by said armoured car. The cast is likely to be full of Violent Glaswegians
and other British Undesirables, notably London Gangsters
. When this trope gets used in works set in more recent times, it's often re-dressed, with the armored car becoming a prison transport van, and the money, a prisoner who must either be freed by his accomplices or killed before he can testify against them. That, or it's a jewelry shipment.
Compare Train Job
and The Caper
. Compare and contrast Vulnerable Convoy
, where the target is a live prisoner rather than cash.
Cases for you to 'ave a butcher's at:
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Anime & Manga
- Knocking over armoured cars transporting cash was a staple of crooks in Batman comics until at least the 1980s.
- The Italian Job (and the 2003 remake)
- The Killers (1964, Don Siegel)
- Diamonds on Wheels
- Heat opens with this kind of job. The robbers wear hockey masks to hide their faces.
- In Layer Cake, this is referenced as being the crime of choice for London gangsters before they discovered drug dealing. At the end of the film, the two Scouse gangsters relish the opportunity to rip off the Magnificent Bastard via armed robbery, and they comment to the effect that it reminds them of old times.
- Circus of Fear (the 1966 film starring Christopher Lee, not the trope of the same name) opens with an armed blag on the Tower Bridge.
- The half of MST3K veteran The Rebel Set that wasn't beatnik-sploitation revolved around the Chief from Get Smart planning an armored car robbery in Chicago — with the twist that the robbers would do the job while travelling from New York to LA by train, during a layover; they'd be gone on the train, with the cash, before the police would know what happened.
- "Professor Marcus" and his associates pull this off pretty neatly in The Ladykillers (1955). Unfortunately for them, the little old Cloudcuckoolander lady they're using as a cover catches them in flagrante delicto.
- The Lavender Hill Mob robbed an armored car of gold bullion.
- The Day They Robbed The Bank Of England, more of the same
- The crew in Serenity pulled off the post office version, hitting a trade station and making off with, ironically enough, the pay for the security guards who were supposed to stop them. Mal mentions that the crime won't be investigated too heavily since it's out in the boondocks and the company will hush it up — if they let it get out that they couldn't protect their own wages, they sure as hell won't get any customers lining up for security contracts.
- Biggles was involved in foiling several of these in his post-war career with the London Metropolitan Police's aviation wing, only Recycled WITH AEROPLANES!.
- "Payroll jobs" the American equivalent are mention Donald Westlake's crime novels in his Parker and Dortmunder books (two different series), but later books mention how corporate practices change making these jobs rarer and rarer.
Live Action TV
- A mainstay of The Professionals episodes.
- Practically every other episode of The Sweeney. Which is kind of Truth in Television, as the Flying Squad were actually the Metropolitan Police's specialist armed robbery taskforce.
- Being an homage to the above two series, Life On Mars.
- Early seasons of The Bill.
- One episode of The Last Detective deals with a retired London Gangster and centers around a past robbery similar to the actual Great Train Robbery.
- The Season Two arc of Ashes to Ashes climaxes with a plot by a group of corrupt cops to step into an Armed Blag they've been tipped off to and take the money themselves.
- Quite possibly inspired by a couple of Real Life incidents in the 70s and 80s, a period when the London Metropolitan Police in general and the Flying Squad in particularly might just as well have been another gang.
- In one episode of Person of Interest, the Victim of the Week is part of an armoured truck's guard crew, and the heroes suspect someone will try an Armed Blag on the truck while it transports platinum. Someone does, but their "victim" is the ringleader and the Inside Man.
- Another American example: The Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "The Jack Is High".
- In the fourth episode of the second series of Misfits, the gang robs an armoured car so that they can ransom Kelly. Simon's invisibility simplifies the process considerably.
- In The Godfather game, you can ambush enemy mobsters' racket trucks in order to pry cash from the guards' cold dead hands. You can also interrogate the driver for the location of a racket. You then have to return the cash to your safehouse before it becomes usable currency. The main threat to you is not the cops but a Teleporting Keycard Squad or two of enemy mobsters, though.
- An early mission in Grand Theft Auto III has you stealing an armored van for The Mafia.
- Grand Theft Auto V:
- Armored cars randomly spawn throughout Los Santos. If you happen to have some explosive charges and a getaway vehicle handy, you can blow the doors off of them and make off with their contents.
- The mission "Blitz Play" is one big Homage to the opening scenes of Heat. You even get extra points if you have the protagonists wear hockey masks.
- One version of the final heist involves hijacking two armored cars and using them for a Bavarian Fire Drill.
- PAYDAY 2 has a rather more violent spin on this trope, with the players dropping cargo containers in front of convoys, bombing out skybridges to block roads off or ramming semi trailers into the lead trucks prior to breaking into them proper. Police responses are usually fast and it's not uncommon for the crew to have to fight their way out even if they subdued the drivers peacefully.
- The most famous British Real Life example is the 1963 Great Train Robbery, which was actually woefully badly done and resulted in the arrests of nearly all involved; the robbery itself went off fairly well...until the culprits decided to play a game of Monopoly with the real money, getting their fingerprints everywhere.
- Experienced a very brief renaissance during the early stages of the current recession, the most successful example being a subversion; rather than ambush an armoured van in transit, a party of robbers cut out the middleman and forced their way into the security firm's depot, driving off with several million pounds.