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In this daring heist, the only color that counts is green
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This action film, directed by the Hughes Brothers, depicts a heist of old bills, retired from circulation and destined by the government to be "money to burn." However, more broadly, it addresses the issues of Black Americans' involvement in the Vietnam War and their subsequent disillusionment with progress in social issues and civil rights back home in the United States, during the 1960's.

Larenz Tate is Anthony Curtis, a good-natured high school kid in 1960s New York who is enjoying life with his girlfriend, Juanita Benson (Rose Jackson) and good friends, Skip (Chris Tucker in an early role) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez) and running numbers for a local tough guy, Kirby (Keith David). Those days are not to last, however, as all three of the young friends end up in Vietnam. Following a fairly lengthy and well-done segment in the Nam, all three end up back in the old neighborhood, where Anthony finds adjusting to civilian life difficult. Soon (and rather suddenly), the whole bunch of them are planning an armored car heist, with Curtis' girlfriend sister, Delilah (N'Bushe Wright), who also happens to be a radical Black Panther. The heist of course ends up having disastrous consequences.

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Film contains examples of

  • Ax-Crazy: Cleon during the war. He commits several executions of NVA and Vietcong POW’s and also cuts off one of their dead heads for a war trophy/souvenir.
    • Dugan has shades of this as well. The headbutting scene is case in point.
  • Badass Preacher, Also Cleon during the war. Unfortunately, he turned into a typical born-again Baptist preacher after the war.
    Cleon:[After blasting a Viet Cong POW in the head, killing him] Now you're good...Now Jesus loves you.
  • Berserk Button: Anthony's is pretty close to the surface following his return from Vietnam, which is partly what gets him into so much trouble.
  • Call-Back: Skip freezes up during the last battle in Vietnam and as result the squad leader Dugan gets killed by the NVA.
    • Flash forward to the heist in the Bronx and Cleon is the one to freeze up as the robbery goes to hell and as result of him freezing up?? A clean and good young cop gets killed as result.
  • The Caper: The group of veterans rob the Federal Reserve of the Bronx.
  • Chronic Villainy: Poor Cleon tried to reform his murderous ways...
  • Cop Killer: Anthony and his gang kill 7 policemen in the bank robbery.
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  • Cluster F-Bomb: Like, fuck, man, these motherfuckers use the word "fuck" every fucking chance they get....
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: D’ambrosio being disembowled and casterated alive by Vietcong soldiers. He’s found shockingly alive by his fellow soldiers........, but he begs Anthony to give him a final shot off morphine to put him out of his misery.
    • Jose gets hit by a out of control police car and then gets crushed as the car crashes into the wall.
  • Dirty Cop: Several members of the NYPD are involved with Kirby in running numbers and take a share of the money he generates.
  • Downer Ending: Anthony is sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery and murder. Skip dies from a heroin overdose and is discovered by policemen raiding his home. Delilah is killed in a gunfight during the heist. During the getaway, Jose runs down an alley while a squad car pursues him. He shoots and kills the the driver, but the alley is a dead end and he gets smashed between the wall and the car. We can also assume that Kirby either dies or gets captured and incarcerated just like Anthony.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Money to Burn ends up getting burnt up when they use too much explosive. Instead of blowing off the door, it blows up the entire truck and they have to salvage the few bills that are blown clear.
  • Famous Last Words: “Tell mama.....” Lance Corporal Martin.
    • “You think I don’t mean it? I can’t go home like this. Please.” D’ambrosio.
    • “Skip, Cover me!!!” Dugan.
    • “What the hell??? Officer Brown.
    • “Anthony!!!!!!!!” Delilah.
    • “You ain’t gonna leave her bro, because she’s already gone.” Jose.
    • “ I told you we didn’t need another man.” Skip.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Much of the main cast are Vietnam vets who wind up involved in crime after the war.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The latter half seems to deconstruct heist movies. Despite the veterans laying out a careful plan of action, the film reminds us that This Is Reality. Thanks to all of their individual issues, the veterans prove to be ill-fit for performing a heist. As a result, almost nothing goes as planned, several innocents are killed, most of the money ends up getting burned up (even though they are able to salvage $360,000) and all of the participants of the heist end up either dead or incarcerated.
  • Gorn, The Vietnam segments and the heist itself.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice Cleon, he rats out the others as well.
  • Guns Akimbo: Delilah during the heist with two 1911's.
  • Idiot Ball: D'ambrosio wandering away from the team in the bushes to take a shit. Being at war and you chose to go without anybody watching your back??? The NVA sadly takes advantage of this by completely tearing apart D’ambrosio.
    • Anthony, Kirby and Skip choosing to remain in the Bronx instead of getting the hell out of town or the country. After a botched robbery and the deaths of several cops you would think they wouldn’t take any chances of staying around to get caught and especially knowing that Cleon could be a liability that they would want to eliminate any loose ends?? The guys don’t take the chance to blow town or eliminate all the loose ends and still remain in the Bronx, leading to a couple of the guys getting arrested.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Cleon might be a little unhinged with his obsession with keeping the decaying head of a Vietcong solider but he’s right that the head has been good luck for the team as nobody has been shot or killed. Right after he buries the head?? D’ambrosio gets disembowled and castered by the Vietcong, Batencourt gets blown apart and Dugan gets shot dead in their final battle with the Vietcong. Keeping the head would have been the smart thing to do.
  • Justified Criminal: Constantly being nagged at by his ungrateful and unfaithful baby mama, fired from his job and with not much help from the government that he nearly got killed several times trying to serve?? It’s easy to understand Anthony’s turn to the life of crime.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: After the heist, the surviving gang members use some of their loot to buy Christmas presents for poor children.
  • The Load: Skip is the least most component member of the recon team and it shows as a result when he freezes up during the final battle against the Vietcong getting Dugan killed. Anthony himself even says he didn’t think Skip was really cut out for recon.
    • Also Cleon. He doesn't do anything during the bank heist other than draw a cop's suspicion. When the cop asks him politely what he’s waiting for, he starts spewing Blatant Lies to him about the bus schedule and when the cop sees the robbery go down?? Cleon just stands there and lets him go towards the scene which forces Kirby to fire at the officer and the officer ends up firing back and hits Kirby in the shoulder, and Skip is forced to blow his brains out all over the sidewalk, mailbox and the wall...... That could have all been avoided if Cleon would have just knocked out the cop.
  • Looks Like Cesare: The robbers' face paint during the heist.
  • Malcolm Xerox: Played straight with Delilah, but justified given the time period.
  • Mercy Kill: Anthony gives D'ambrosio an overdose of morphine after he's been disemboweled by the Viet Cong and begging to die.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Anthony doesn’t say it out loud but his facial expressions says it all after giving D’ambrosio the fatal shot of morphine to put him out of his misery.
    • Cleon feels this way after the robbery, feeling that “God will never forgive him” One could argue the reason why Cleon stupidly blew his cover was because he wanted to get arrested to try redeem himself for his sins.
    • At the end while being transferred to the penitentiary, Anthony looks out the window clearly regretting everything that went down and what could have been.
  • Never My Fault: After the robbery Cleon tries to blame Skip for the death of the cop. Yes Skip killed him but it wouldn’t have happened if Cleon would have grabbed him and subdued him in the first place.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The DVD cover and all of the promotional material would have you believe that the heist would be the largest focal point of the movie. In fact, the film spends more time on events leading up to the heist that it does on the heist and the aftermath.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Curtis suffers one which overlaps with his job as a butcher, and his violent Vietnam flashbacks. Which makes for a bone-chilling segment. Brrr...
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Anthony gives one to Cowboy in the pool hall after one too many snippy remarks.
    • He also gives one to one of the security guards during the robbery, which kills him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several instances of this occurs throughout the film: Delilah witnessing her mom pull up earlier than expected with Anthony and Juanita in the bed.
    • The entire recon team’s reaction to Cleon cutting off the head of a Vietcong solider.
    • The team finding D’ambrosio disembowled and casterated alive by the Vietcong.
    • Batencourt’s reaction to stepping on a landmine before he explodes. Also Skip freezing up as his body parts land near him.
    • Kirby and Skip seeing the cop approach Cleon and him not subduing the officer.
    • Jose as he gets hit by the police car.
    • Anthony witnessing Cleon get arrested by the NYPD and saying “Oh Shit Cleon!!!” it’s not helped by Cleon ratting the rest of the guys out for the robbery so his reaction was very justified.
  • Plethora of Mistakes
    "Anthony Curtis: The whole plan was fucked up! We ain't do shit right out there, man. Shit."
  • Psycho Party Member: Cleon was this during his stint in 'Nam. Dougan also showed heavy shades of this. Interestingly enough Kirby didn't want Delilah to be in on The Caper because he thought she was one of these saying
    "Oh, no, no, no, no. I don't want none of them revolutionary niggas involved."
  • Reality Ensues: Almost every major plot point in the film including the heist itself ends with this.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!! After the final battle against the Vietcong literally goes to shit with Dugan and Batencourt getting killed, Cleon orders everybody to move out ASAP.
    • Kirby gets out of the numbers game when the NYPD starts cracking down on him for more money. Saying “he wasn’t going to bust ass paying sending some greedy cop kids to college”
    • Both Anthony and Kirby try to escape to Mexico after Cleon gets arrested and snitches on everybody. Unfortunately the NYPD ends up raiding the club and arrests the both of them.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran, Curtis probably suffers from a mild form of this..
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Cleon, feeling guilty about having shot a cop, refers to the gang's loot as "dirty money."
  • Teeth Clinched Team Work: Anthony summons Cleon on to the heist but he’s hesitant at first because he still holds a grudge against Skip for freezing up back in Vietnam, getting his best friend and squad leader Dugan killed along with the fact he’s on drugs. He ultimately agrees to it but the bad blood between the two is heavy as the two of them can hardly stand being around each other.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Cleon's reaction during the heist, when a police officer (very kindly) offers to call up his precinct to check the local bus schedule for him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: As Kirby is kicking the shit out of a dude who owes him money, his wife pulls a revolver on him. Kirby admires that she has more heart than her punk ass old man before cold-clocking her and taking her gun.
    • Anthony gets fed up with Juanita’s bitchy and ungrateful attitude and grabs her around the neck HARD to shut her up....... She tries to stop Anthony from leaving by continuously grabbing him despite the fact he told her to stop like twice and then for a THIRD time grabs him and he grabs her by the neck once more with way MORE force and threatens to kill her if she ever runs up on him again.....
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A remake of a film based on the true story of a group of black Vietnam vets who pulled a heist.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Anthony breaks down into anger after the judge sentences him for 15 years to life in prison for manslaughters done on policemen and robbing a bank. He throws a chair at the judge and angrily protests that he served and fought for the United States in the Vietnam War to no avail as he gets boarded on a bus for incarceration and he can't do anything but regret and reflect on what he could've done differently.
  • Villain Protagonist: Anthony and his gang plan to rob an armored car at the bank.

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