Murray stars as Grimm, a burnt-out New Yorker, who conspires with his friends Phyllis (Geena Davis) and Loomis (Randy Quaid) to successfully pull off the ingenious robbery of a New York City bank. But then they find themselves relentlessly thwarted in their attempts to get to the airport and escape the country. Meanwhile, the dogged veteran cop who takes charge of their case (Jason Robards) isn't having such a great day himself.
A con-artist does make a brief appearance, but he does not run the scam of the same name.
This film contains examples of:
- Anti-Villain: Yes, Grimm, Phyllis, and Loomis all held numerous people hostage, probably traumatized them, fucked around with the cops, and stole a bunch of money from a bank. However, they only did so because their lives were going down the drain due to the gentrification of the city leaving them broke to the point where Grimm and Phyllis nearly froze to death in their apartment. And despite their bickering, they all genuinely care for each other.
- Asshole Victim: The yuppie among the bank hostages is a classist, "ha-ha, I'm rich" dude who tries to bribe his way out of being a hostage. Grimm will have none of it, and the other hostages don't care about him.
- Awesome by Analysis: Rotzinger immediately realizes the bank robbers are not in the bank when he hears a car horn on the phone line. He then notes that the report of a man jumping out of a car must have been one of the robbers, and notes there are missing hostages, deducing there are two men and a woman who are accomplices.
- Rotzinger plans a bust on the bank robbers' getaway plane. Grimm and Loomis are ready to be arrested... turns out Rotzinger is planning to arrest a Mafia don sitting behind him.
- A minor one with Mrs Russ Crane, who gives the impression of being a cool and refined Ice Queen... until she opens her mouth. Turns out that Mrs Crane — actually Mrs Lombino, wife to high-ranking mobster Vincent Lombino — is actually a trashy and foul-mouthed Joisey Girl ("Vince! You fuckin' woim!")
- Bank Robbery: It goes flawlessly. The getaway however...
- Becoming the Mask:
- Phyllis starts to worry that Grimm is settling into the role of ruthlessly manipulative criminal mastermind a bit too comfortably.
- Throughout their trip to the airport, Loomis becomes increasingly like the hysterical fellow he'd pretended to be at the bank.
- Bigger Is Better: Mario, apparently.Mrs. Lombino: It's thicker than his neck, and a lot more powerful.
- Big Applesauce: A particularly cynical depiction.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Invoked In-Universe, as none of the trio can fathom what in the world that bicycle joust was all about. Loomis is particularly disturbed (see Sick And Wrong).
- The Big Rotten Apple: Grimm hates New York City with a passion (or what he feels the city is becoming, at least). And judging by all the trouble he and his friends go through, New York City returns the favor.Stewardess: You think you're late enough?
Grimm: Oh, you must be from around here.
- Bittersweet Ending: For Rotzinger; the armed robbers he was chasing throughout the movie got away, but he manages to nab an elusive and feared mafioso instead as a consolation prize.
- Book Ends: During Grimm's bank robbery, Rotzinger gripes, "Who called all the media?" When Lombino is arrested and taken in, Rotzinger wonders, "Who called all the media?" His assistant replies, "I did."
- Brutal Honesty: The bank manager who tells Rotzinger the bank managers will blame him.
- Buses Are for Freaks: "Behind the white line!"
- Buxom Beauty Standard: Phyllis pads her bra to make Grimm!Clown lust after her. Later, she uses it to smuggle the money out.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Phyllis finds great difficulty in telling Grimm that she's pregnant.
- The Cameo: Bob Elliot appears as the bank guard.
- The Caper: Kind of a subversion, in that it's mainly about the aftermath.
- The Chew Toy: Quaid's character.
- *Click* Hello: Leave it to Bill Murray to Deadpan Snark this Trope, too.Mafioso: That ain't my dick in your back.
Grimm: (Beat) Well, that's a relief.
- Clock King: The bus driver is a maniac about staying on schedule, and gives Grimm precisely 1 minute, 45 seconds to get exact change for fare.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Everyone on the bus. Especially the odd guitar-wearing hippie who tries to get on the bus.
- Confusing Multiple Negatives: This exchange during the bank robbery:Bank Customer: Hey, that's my money!
Grimm: Don't worry about it, it's insured.
Customer: She didn't give me no receipt yet! They can't insure it if I don't got no receipt!
[Grimm takes a moment to parse this statement, then:]
Grimm: [To the teller] Would you please give him a receipt? [to the customer] And you: watch the double negatives, huh?
Customer: Yes sir.
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: The cab driver initially speeds away in terror when he thinks Loomis died after jumping for his car but then goes back to turn himself in.
- Crapsack World: Queens. The Big Rotten Apple indeed, as it seems the main reason Grimm robbed a bank is that he can't stand living in New York anymore. (Basically, Grimm is an architect and classically built buildings (for some reason aren't designated historical landmarks) are being torn down.note . The fact that there are so many Apathetic Citizens who seem disappointed at things like Loomis only being unconscious and not dead adds to this.
- Crazy-Prepared: Grimm. It doesn't help.
- Rotzinger does a decent job preparing for Grimm's exit strategies (but he misses Grimm's escape) putting limited gas in the escape veichles and posting sharpshooters in every direction that gas could take Grimm, hiding Green Berets under bus seats etc.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- It's Bill Murray. Of course there's one.Security Guard: (seeing the dynamite) What the hell kind of clown are you?!
Grimm: (deadpan) The "crying on the inside" kind, I guess.
- Phyllis gets in a few good ones.Loomis: Was that our plane?
Phyllis: No, no. If it were our plane, it'd be crashing.
- It's Bill Murray. Of course there's one.
- Destroy the Security Camera: During the bank robbery he performs at the beginning of the movie, Grimm shoots out one of the security cameras inside the bank so it can't record his secret actions to trick the police.
- Disguised Hostage Gambit: Police Chief Ratzinger thinks Grimm will dress some of the hostages as clowns and take them out to the vehicles in a group so police snipers can't target him. Grimm actually has something else in mind: He and two confederates inside the bank will pretend to be released hostages (with the cash taped to their bodies under their civilian clothes) and escape while the cops are concentrating on the bank.
- Everyone Has Standards: A yuppie attempts to bribe Grimm with a $12,000 gold watch if he lets him go. Instead, Grimm takes the watch, pays $300 dollars for it (1/40 of its actual value), and gives the yuppie his cheap, crappy Timex as a replacement, all while calling him a Nazi.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:Lt. Jameson: Chief, The Peruvian Connection. The Subway Psycho? The people are gonna remember what you've done. What's so memorable about a clown stealing a million dollars?
(Rotzinger gives him a look.)
Lt. Jameson: Jesus, we gotta get this guy!
- Failing a TaxiLoomis: (screaming at an off-duty cab) $10,000 for a taxi!
Phyllis: And a blowjob!
- Funny Background Event:
- While Grimm is talking down a suspicious yuppie couple, Loomis and Phyllis are aghast as the New York Fire Department is wrecking their getaway car, which they parked in front of a fire hydrant because they felt they could afford the fine for doing so.
- At the airport, while Rotzinger and his underlings are strategizing how to arrest someone, through the window we see the robbers being ferried into the airport via a baggage truck.
- The yuppie hostage can be seen tapping the cheap, defective watch Clown!Grimm gave him in exchange for his gold Rolex.
- Gentle Giant: Loomis, who is the biggest of the three bank robbers but is ultimately something of a wimpy crybaby, albeit a sweet-natured one.
- Gilligan Cut:Rotzinger: Three of them! Laughing with glee!
(cut to the trio desperately trying to hail a cab)
- Great Detective: Chief Rotzinger is quick to try and plan ahead to anticipate Grimm's moves throughout the bank robbery and getaway, quickly realizes how some of the hostages (the disguised robbers) have disappeared, and does a good job of tracking them throughout the film. He's also mentioned as having broken tough cases like "The Peruvian Connection" and "The Subway Psycho."
- Hero Antagonist: Rotzinger, the dedicated policeman trying to catch our bank-robbing protagonists.
- Human Shield: When Rotzinger comes for him, Lombino aka Mr. Russ Crane tries to get out of it by using his wife as a human shield. She is, naturally, far from impressed ("Vince! You fuckin' woim!")
- Indy Ploy: Fortunately, Grimm is good at Xanatos Speed Chess.
- Ironic Echo:
- When covering the hostage situation at the bank, Rotzinger mutters in exasperation, "Who called the media?!" At the end, Rotzinger, as he's taking in the Don of a Mafia family, quizzically asks, "Who called the media?" His assistant replies, "I did."
- To underscore how they are similar, successive scenes feature Grimm and Rotzinger mournfully looking at an old building that's about to be torn down and rue how the New York skyline is getting uglier.
- Irony: At one point, while driving around the backstreets lost, Grimm fumes that if they could just find a landmark they'd be able to at least figure out where they are. The camera then pans over a row of huge delivery vehicles they drive past... which are blocking a perfect view of the Statue of Liberty.
- Jerkass Has a Point: When the bus driver proves immobile on the subject of exact change, Grimm snaps that none of the weirdos and Cloud Cuckoolanders on his bus are the kind of people who care if the rules of New York City public transportation are being followed to the letter. The driver retorts that, given he deals with these people on a nightly basis, that only gives him more motivation to be as little like them as possible:Grimm: Have you looked back there lately? I don't think anybody is going to object.
Bus Driver: I look back there every night, friend. That's why I conduct my own affairs in a clean and hygienic fashion.
- Joisey: Mrs. Lombino, once she opens her mouth.
- Large Ham:
- Grimm is mostly matter-of-fact and deadpan throughout the movie, but when he's on the phone to Rotzinger and playing himself up as an Ax-Crazy maniac, he takes the opportunity to chew the scenery a bit.
- The flower seller. "Flores para los muertos! Los muertos! LOS MUEEEEEERTOOOOOS!"
- Lawful Stupid: The bus driver, oh so very much. The hardest part of dealing with him is that he demands exact change for the bus fare, rejecting Grimm's bill even when Grimm insists that he can keep the change (he does gives Grimm the chance to go get it, but Grimm has exactly two minutes to do so (and the driver will spare not one more second), forcing him to run for it).Bus Driver: BEHIND THE WHITE LINE!!!
Grimm: You better lighten up. You're becoming Ralph Kramden's Evil Twin.
- Later, when the entire bus is being debarked by the police, what is the bus driver doing?Bus Driver: Please hold on to your transfer, you need a transfer to re-board. Please hold on to your transfer, you need a transfer to re-board. Please hold on to your transfer, you need a transfer to re-board...
- Later, when the entire bus is being debarked by the police, what is the bus driver doing?
- The Load: Loomis isn't incredibly useful; he's hysterical and whiny, he's the one who honks the horn that alerts the cops that the robbers are no longer in the bank, almost everything he does after the robbers escape the bank screws something up and risks capture, and after he gets injured Grimm and Phyllis are pretty much forced to carry him everywhere. Even during the robbery, his main purpose is to act cowardly in order to annoy the other hostages enough that he gets kicked out of the bank first, thus allowing him to transport some of the money out.
- Lovable Coward: Loomis, oh so much. For example, when an elderly flower seller is screaming "Flores para los muertos!", on a deserted street-corner, in the middle of the night, very very dramatically:Grimm: There must be alot of competition for that corner.
Phyllis: It's a good thing she's not too symbolic or anything.
Loomis: What does that mean anyway? "Flores por los muertes"?
Grimm: I sure couldn't tell ya'.
Phyllis: Aw, you know Grimm, it means flowers for the dead.
(Cue a Death Glare from Genre Savvy Grimm aimed at Phyllis.)
Loomis: (Beat) Oh! We're all gonna die! We're a-a-a-ll gonna d-i-i-e!
- The Mafia: One of the many obstacles in the getaway is Grimm and his friends running into a mafioso meet-up. Grimm manages to convince them that he's a mafioso himself to prevent a potential witness slaying (with him as one of the "witnesses").
- Meaningful Background Event: Mario is seen being done talking to Rotzinger next to the cab driver, since he was a witness to the bank robbers. Actually, he was telling Rotzinger that Lombino was fleeing the country, and what plane he was on.
- Meaningful Name: Grimm, the snarky, sardonic bank robber.
- Mirror Character: One gets the feeling that Grimm and Rotzinger would actually get along quite well if it wasn't for the latter chasing the former for armed robbery:
- Both of them at separate points bemoan the tearing down of a beautiful old building to replace it with some cheap modern eyesore.
- Both of them treat the cab driver with politeness and respect, in contrast to their peers.
- Money Is Not Power: The bank robbery has a rich yuppie as one of the hostages, and he tries to buy his way out (or at least getting preferential treatment) with his super-expensive watch and promising to pay up. Grimm doesn't care. This same trope happens to him later on when he can't convince the bus driver to accept the hefty bill he's trying to pay the bus fare with, forcing him to race to a nearby store (and dodge the cops) so he can get exact change.
- Monster Clown: At least as far as the bank-hostages are concerned.
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: It's mentioned the bank owners won't cooperate with Rotzinger and will blame him for everything in order to "protect their shareholders" (all three of them).
- Motorcycle Jousting: In a variant, Quick Change gives us a bizarre (and apparently lethal) bicycle jousting scene. Loomis panics and yells that "It's bad luck just seeing a thing like that!"
- My Secret Pregnancy: Phyllis.
- Nerves of Steel: The bank manager remains calm at all times, even when Grimm threatens to send his thumb out to the cops if they don't respond on time, or when informing the Chief that the bank owners will hold him responsible if the money isn't recovered.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero (or Nice Job Fixing It, Villain, depending on your perspective): Loomis honked the fucking car horn. Grimm states he could have had the police paralyzed for hours thinking he was still in the bank holding the hostages, even after they successfully got away.
- Not What It Looks Like: The new tenant of Phyllis' building when he sees walks in on them picking up the TV (to get a shirt under it) and mistakes them for thieves.
- Now You Tell Me: At the airport, when Phyllis is getting cold feet about running away with Grimm, Grimm panics and basically tries to bully her into it by lecturing her at length about how horrible the New York prison system is particularly for a pregnant mother. When Loomis chides him for it afterwards, he claims that it was the only way to ensure that she fled with them. Loomis coldly points out that Grimm telling Phyllis that he loved her might have been a better approach.Grimm: Oh Jesus, Loomis. Now you tell me.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Grimm acts like a nut and lies that he's a Shell-Shocked Veteran into order to get the cops and hostages to become cautious of him and give into his demands.
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: Loomis' frequent response whenever Grimm gets annoyed with him is to immediately beg Grimm not to hit him. At one point Grimm, perplexed, asks Loomis why he does this, since Grimm hasn't hit anyone since he was six years old. Loomis replies that it was him that Grimm hit that time.
- Opportunistic Vendors: During Grimm's bank robbery at the beginning, crowds gather to watch and cheer as NYPD quickly surrounds the bank; several hot dog vendors can be seen pushing their carts fast, jockeying to take advantage of the sudden business.
- Parking Payback: Against Loomis' better judgement, he parks in front of a fire hydrant at Phyllis' urging; with her saying that they have enough money to pay the fine. While they are in the apartment, a fire breaks out in the building across the street and Loomis can only watch helplessly as the firemen push his car out of the way. It rolls down the hill, through a hedge, and down an embankment to crash into a park. Later, he sees it being towed away; completely trashed.
- The Perfect Crime: The getaway, on the other hand...
- Pet the Dog: Even while he seems like an unstable bank robber instead of the Anti-Villain he is, Grimm does allow one bank customer to get a receipt for the money so he'll get insurance. He is also polite to the cab driver, the baggage car driver who takes them to the airport (thanking him even after the guy shakes them down) and is also helpful to another store customer and would-be bus passenger (albeit partially to quicken his own getaway).
- Precision F-Strike:Phyllis: (comforting Loomis on her lap) None of this is your fault... (slaps him) Except you honked the fucking car horn.
- The Quiet One: Subverted with Mrs. Lombino, who seems a wilting flower type doted on by her husband and doesn't speak during her scenes... until Vince tries using her as a human shield on the plane, resulting in a VERY vulgar tirade from her as she beats him with Loomis' luggage (and also brags about fucking his enforcer Mario).
- Refuge in Audacity: How Grimm deals with some mobsters.
- Retirony: Averted with Rotzinger.
- Reverse Psychology: Grimm tricks the other bank hostages into asking for Loomis and Phyllis to be released first by going on rants about how they're the kind of people who make him angry and get other hostages killed.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Parodied; Grimm fails to shoot out a camera with his Taurus PT92, so he switches over to the security guard's revolver and shoots it out in one shot.
- Road-Sign Reversal: The trio get lost because some construction workers had to take down a broken sign.
- Sad Clown: The "crying-on-the-inside" type, according to Grimm.
- The Scrappy: In-Universe, Phyllis and Loomis make themselves into one so the other hostages demand they be the ones to be released first.
- Self-Serving Memory: The bank security guard becomes a lot more competent and heroic in dealing with the robbers when telling the police about it retroactively.
- Serious Business: The weird bicycle joust that the trio happen to stumble upon in the back streets. The two men involved appear to actually be dueling to the death (or at least the very seriously injured), there seem to be some genuine stakes of honor involved, the loser's family burst out crying at this defeat, a priest pushes the loser's bike away from him as if it's cursed, and once it's done a child starts ringing a bell to solemnly mark the occasion. Meanwhile Grimm, Phyllis and Loomis are just staring in horrified confusion.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Grimm!Clown pretends to be one.Grimm!Clown: The cameras... they were looking at me. (to security camera) QUIT LOOKING AT ME! (shoots it)
- "Flores para los muertos!" is a direct reference to A Streetcar Named Desire (specific to the film, as it was absent from Jay Cronley's novel).
- Quaid's character was named as a reference to Halloween. In the book, it was "Lackey", not "Loomis".
- The bank robbery, hostage scenario, and the not-so-simple act of making a getaway could be seen as a reference to the similar story of Dog Day Afternoon.
- Sick and Wrong: Loomis on seeing the bizarre jousting ceremony.Loomis: It's bad luck just seeing a thing like that.
- A Simple Plan: The robbery itself is quite intricate and well-thought out, and goes off without a hitch. The getaway is A Simple Plan of the three essentially driving to the airport. It doesn't work out that way.
- Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: Mob bagman Mario is having an affair with the wife of his employer.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Rotzinger's burnt-out, taken-for-granted and basically wondering exactly why he's doing his job. His cynical and world-weary view of his life and the city he lives in isn't so far removed from Grimm's.
- This Is Going to Suck: "Do not come into the bank, he is covered in dynamite." (Although they're actually just road flares.)
- Title Drop: A visual one: one of the climactic sequences is Grimm running to a store near the bus stop to gather exact change for the bus fare because the bus driver is such a hard-core stickler to the rules that he will not let Grimm and his companions ride without it (and he is about to take off in two minutes exactly, to boot).
- Too Good to be True: Grimm is very suspicious of a Good Samaritan offering directions for this reason. It turns out he's Properly Paranoid.
- Trouser Space/Victoria's Secret Compartment: The thieves (two men and a woman) hide the stolen money by duct-taping it to their underwear (and have to hope that they don't get strip-searched).
- Truer to the Text: The film is overall more faithful to the novel than the previous adaptation, Hold-up.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
- The customers and workers in the back barely register a flicker of interest at the sight of a clown with a gun and "dynamite" strapped to him walking into the bank and announcing that he's robbing it:Grimm: This is a robbery!
[No one gives him the slightest bit of attention]
Grimm: [To the guard] ...Can you believe this? [To everyone] This is a robbery!
Guard: It is!
[Still no one pays attention. Exasperated, Grimm lets go of his balloons and shoots one. That gets a response.]
- Grimm in his bulky clown outfit and numerous balloons are just one more hassle New York straphangers have to deal with.Porn theater barker: Nude women! Clowns welcome!
- The customers and workers in the back barely register a flicker of interest at the sight of a clown with a gun and "dynamite" strapped to him walking into the bank and announcing that he's robbing it:
- Video Will: One frightened bank customer makes a will on his tape recorder, and bothers to include his Giants tickets along with his stock portfolio and house.
- Villain Protagonist: Our protagonists are in general terms quite decent and likeable people, but they still robbed a bank.
- Loomis. During the heist, it comes in real handy ("Let's see Ms. Meryl Streep vomit on cue, huh?"), but during the getaway? Not so much.
- Grimm also plays a whiny hostage. "He said 'Up your nut with a coconut'! But I saw no coconut. There was no coconut."
- Wham Line:Rotzinger: Hey, we gotta commend this Skipowski... I mean, Chipowski.
(Cue startled realization, as Rotzinger looks up at the plane taking off.)
- Worthy Opponent: Grimm specifically namedrops Rotzinger as his #1 enemy, because he knows that the chief is Awesome by Analysis.