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Vulnerable Convoy

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Take No Prisoners.

In crime movies, thrillers, or TV shows about police, any time a convoy transporting a prisoner or a group of prisoners is shown, it will almost always be ambushed by a criminal gang, either to free an imprisoned gang leader or take out a rival gang member.

Sometimes, a convoy may even be sent out to draw out the attackers. The vehicle may be a police van, bus, or armored car. The security escort is often police cars or large SUVs.

Occasionally, a convoy may not even need to be attacked. Something can go awry during the trip, such as a snowstorm or traffic accident, and the transports never make it to the jail. Alternatively, the prisoners may pick the locks on their shackles or feign illness, and then overpower the guards. The prisoners take advantage of the problem to escape. This leads naturally to a second act in the story, as now the prisoners are on the run wearing a prison uniform and with no supplies, facing a huge police dragnet and roadblocks.

The ambush can be prevented with a Decoy Convoy (or two, or three, or...), by increasing the size of convoy's security escort, or using a heavily-armed SWAT unit to protect the convoy.

For video games, this trope only applies if the player attacks a convoy. If the player is tasked with defending one, it's an Escort Mission. Compare and contrast Armed Blag, where the target convoy is transporting money or valuables rather than a prisoner.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first chapter of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka has East Asian Liberation Front leader Kim Kanth being transported in a TMPD armored truck with anti-firearms officer inside as a police escort. EALF terrorists promptly ambush the convoy and break him out of the wagon. They don't get far after Asuka appears on the scene.
  • My Hero Academia: At the end of the Internship arc, as the villain Overhaul is being transported to a nearby prison, the convoy is attacked by the League of Villains. The incident results in the minor hero Snatch being killed, Overhaul's arms being cut off (rendering him functionally Quirkless), and the League successfully stealing a small case filled with Quirk destroying bullets.

    Comic Books 
  • Birds of Prey: The "Apokolips Express" kicks off when Oracle gets a tip-off that there is a planned breakout from a train transporting metahuman prisoners to The Slab. The breakout happens... by teleporting the train to another planet!
  • In Civil War (2006), a convoy of captured resistance members is attacked as it passes through the streets of NYC in an attempt to free the prisoners. The ensuing chaos, where neither side seems all that interested or concerned with the safety of nearby civilians on his old block, is the final straw as far as the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing is concerned, especially when a young member of the Yancy Street Gang is killed in the crossfire. He walks away from the conflict in disgust and spends the rest of the civil war in Europe, fighting crime and hanging out with some Euro-heroes.
  • In Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2, Carrie arranges for the convoy transporting her to be hit by a remote-controlled tank, allowing her to escape.
  • Ms. Marvel (1977): One issue has Carol getting a premonition that a Stark Industries truck which is carrying a nuclear device will go up, and tries to prevent this. Unfortunately, she doesn't know what will cause it and can't make a good argument for her case, making it look to the Vision, who's on guard duty, like she's the one attacking them. It turns out the culprit is the driver, who's actually an A.I.M. robot. But Carol and Vis thwart him in time.
  • Post-World War Hulk, Bruce Banner is being transported in a convoy which gets attacked. It turns out that he's in a different convoy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Inverted in 16 Blocks. A one-man detail is assigned to take a prisoner downtown while escaping a gauntlet of angry rogue cops.
  • In Antigang, Kasper's ultimate plan involves spooking the Daedalis Bank into transferring its assets in a fleet of armoured cars so he can hijack the convoy.
  • In Black Mama, White Mama, a prison convoy transporting Lee and Karen (an American woman helping the native freedom fighters) is attacked by the guerillas in an attempt to free Karen. The attack is repulsed when police reinforcements arrive, but Lee and Karen manage to escape, still manacled together.
  • Con Air: Several of the most dangerous criminals in the country are being transported somewhere by plane, so of course it's gonna get hijacked. Later in the film, a police helicopter attempts to shoot it down.
  • In The Criminal, the gang arranges for Johnny to be transferred to another prison, then intercepts the prison van and busts him out.
  • In The Dark Knight, this is done to lure out the Joker. It works, but the vehicle carrying Dent is the only one that survives.
  • Die Hard 2: Terrorists take over an airport to free a drug lord being flown into the U.S. on a jet.
  • Discussed in Eternal. When Elizabeth is attempting to persuade Pope to break her out of the cell Inspector Thurzo is holding her in, she tells him that she is going to transferred to secure facility in Switzerland and explains where he would be able to hit the convoy on the French-Swiss border and bust her out.
  • Fast Five opens with the protagonists raiding a prison convoy to free one of their friends.
  • In Fresh Meat, Paulie, Gigi and Johnny hit the prison van transporting Ritchie when the drivers stop at service station to buy pies.
  • The Fugitive: While being transported to jail, a fight breaks out on the prisoner bus which ends up killing the driver and causing the bus to topple onto train tracks, effectively forcing the protagonist to escape.
  • The Gauntlet: Shockley must get a prostitute from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to testify in a mob trial. They're attacked several times en route.
  • The Gunfight at Dodge City: When Billy is being transported to Wichita to be executed, Bat and Doc rescue him by hijacking the stagecoach that is being used to transport him when it stops at watering place.
  • Licence to Kill: Drug lord Franz Sanchez offers a reward to anyone who releases him from custody. During a prisoner transfer the convoy carrying him is attacked from the inside and he gets away.
  • Mission: Impossible III: the big bad has just been arrested, so naturally his convoy is attacked and he gets away.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005): The first cracks in the titular couple's relationships happen when they both try to take out the same target, someone being transported via convoy, except it turns out it's actually a Contract on the Hitman.
  • In Mr. Majestyk, the mob tries to bust out the hitman Renda while he is being transported to the courthouse in the police bus.
  • Operation Daybreak. Even though Reinhard Heydrich's staff car is escorted by an armoured car and two troop vehicles, he's still more vulnerable there than in his home or office. Fortunately on the day of his assassination Heydrich is running late for his flight, so he tells his chauffeur to speed up, leaving his escort behind.
  • Happens repeatedly to the British troops in The Patriot (2000), including Benjamin's rescue of his arrested son Gabriel. The Brits eventually wise up, at one point laying an ambush using a supply wagon.
  • Patriot Games: While being transferred to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, terrorist Sean Miller's escort convoy is ambushed by his ULA comrades who kill the police officers and free him from custody. Despite the fact that three identical convoys head out from the prison (the real one is betrayed by The Mole).
  • S.W.A.T. (2003): The whole plot is effectively one long Escort Mission after the perp yells out while he's being carted away that he'll handsomely reward whoever busts him out.
  • In Teenage Crime Wave, Mike ambushes the prison van taking Terry and Jane to the reformatory: killing the driver, wounding the prison matron, and freeing the girls.
  • Tenet: In order to get close to Andrei Sator, the Protagonist promises to deliver a case supposedly containing plutonium-241 which is being conveyed to a disposal site. He has to ambush the convoy without stopping the vehicles concerned because they are being tracked by GPS.
  • In U.S. Marshals, a plane carrying prisoners crash lands after one prisoner attempts to use a smuggled gun to assassinate another prisoner and the bullet makes a hole in the fuselage.
  • The bumbling protagonists of La Vengeance du serpent √† plumes are arrested due to being mistaken for members of the terror gang (Dressing as the Enemy has its risks). As they're driven to prison along with members of a drug cartel, the convoy is attacked by the rest of the cartel and the prisoners broken out. Then those "killed in the attack" get up and congratulate each other...
  • X-Men: The Last Stand: Magneto attacks the prison convoy transporting Mystique, Multiple Man, and the Juggernaut.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • At the end of season 5, this is how Bierko escapes. Also, at the end of season 8, the ambulance convoy carrying Jack Bauer (who has been shot) is attacked by a team sent to drag him to a remote area to execute him.
    • 24 uses this straight but also double-subverts it during Season 8. Jack sends an ambulance carrying a captured villain to a hospital for treatment and interrogation, expecting that the villain's business partners will attack it to kill him and prevent him from talking to CTU. Unknown to them, the villain is already dead, and the ambulance is sent as a mobile bait. However, thinking that they are safer attacking the hospital once the villain is carried there, the partners leave the ambulance alone.
  • This is used multiple times in Burn Notice, though it is usually subverted. In one episode, the team attacks a prisoner transport van to free a gangster's brother, but the van and the guards are fake, and they are trying to trick the gangster into releasing the hostage he is holding. Another time, Micheal pretends to be a fellow prisoner and helps a mobster escape during transport so that the mobster can lead them to where his boss is hiding.
  • In one episode of Castle, they set up a prisoner transport with a decoy prisoner in order to catch a contract killer. The cops are forced to shoot the killer before they can capture him.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In the season 1 finale, the convoy transporting Wilson Fisk to jail is ambushed by mercenaries on his payroll who have been hired to bust him out. Fisk is then spirited away by his men, but Matt Murdock stops him before he can get too far, and Brett Mahoney apprehends Fisk and takes him back into custody.
    • In the second episode of season 3, Fisk hires Jasper Evans to shank him and make it look like he's in danger for snitching on the Albanians, so that the FBI will move him into the protection of his own Presidential Hotel. While the convoy is transporting him there, though, the Albanians make an attempt of their own on Fisk. They take out his escort cars, then gun down the FBI agents as they try to protect their prisoner, killing five of them and wounding several more. They almost succeed at killing Fisk before they are all killed themselves by Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter. Nadeem and Dex proceed to escort Fisk the rest of the way to the hotel, while Matt learns of Fisk's release as he's at Riverbank Medical Center when ambulances arrive ferrying the wounded agents from the ambush scene. Dex's sharpshooting skills during the attack intrigue Fisk, who begins working on turning the FBI agent into his personal assassin starting the very next day.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Giant Killer", a fanatic launches an attack on a convoy transporting a missile from Texas to California using a rifle grenade.
  • Gotham: In "Harvey Dent", the Russians break Ian Hargrove out of custody by attacking the van being used to transport him from Blackgate to St. Mark's Psychiatric Hospital.
  • In NUMB3RS, Colby escapes his convoy with his cuff partner ridiculously easily. Is it really that easy to smuggle a key in and shoot your guard? Really?
  • An episode of The Pretender starts with a news report of this, which kidnapped the key witness in a mafia trial. The attack was planned by Jarod himself, who was told the aim was to rescue prisoners in a war.
  • In Strike Back, Stonebridge and Scott are escorting a van transporting a prisoner when the van is blown up. They were Genre Savvy enough to put the prisoner in the trunk of their car instead.

    Video Games 
  • In Fable, the Adventure Guild has two Sidequests to this effect:
    • The Evil version of "Execution Tree" has the Hero fight his way through City Guards to rescue a bandit leader who's being escorted to the headsman's block. The Good version is the Escort Mission.
    • "Bandit Spy Extraction" quest is a variant: you're retrieving The Mole from a trader caravan, so the guards are hostile to you from the beginning, but only hostile to your target when you reach him and blow his cover.
  • In some of the Grand Theft Auto games there is at least one mission where the player must attack a convoy:
    • In III, the main target in the convoy is an ambulance. And of course, in the very beginning, the prisoner convoy that carries the main character is attacked by drug cartels.
    • In Vice City, the player has to steal the tank from a miltary convoy.
    • In IV, Niko has to attack a prisoner convoy. In a twist, though, he's meant to kill the prisoner being transported after getting them to safety.
  • In Mirror's Edge, Faith intercepts a police convoy that transports her sister to prison after an unfair trial.
  • The Green Bridge mission in PAYDAY: The Heist has the crew breaking a prisoner out of a prison transport moving in a convoy. The mission starts after the crew destroys part of the bridge, stopping the convoy and allowing them to move in and saw open the doors of the four transport vans, one of which holds the prisoner they are trying to free.
  • The Hoxton Breakout mission in PAYDAY 2 also has this. The police have gotten wise to this trick so the Convoy is ultra secure. Instead, the gang targets Hoxton when he's being moved on foot through an underground tunnel to the courthouse.
  • Red Faction Guerrilla spawns EDF convoys and sure enough the player is expected to destroy or hijack them before they reach their destination.
  • Resident Evil 0's Billy Coen escaped from a convoy when it was attacked by zombie dogs.
  • In Rogue Squadron, you have to rescue Wedge from a prisoner transport convoy on Kessel after he is shot down and captured in the previous mission.
  • In Silent Hill: Downpour, the prison bus transporting protagonist Murphy Pendleton and other inmates from Ryall State Penitentiary to Wayside Maximum Security Prison takes a tumble and rolls off the road into woodland. Murphy wakes up and escapes the wreckage on foot, eventually arriving in Silent Hill.
  • Finding and engaging enemy convoys takes up about half the players time in the Silent Hunter games. The other half is spent trying to survive the enemy counter attack.
  • In XCOM 2, you play as La R√©sistance against the ADVENT Coalition, and sometimes, they have captured a resistance scientist, engineer, or one of your own MIA soldiers. Your mission is then to release the captive VIP and lead them to extraction.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Transformers: Prime has the Autobots assist with escorting a convoy carrying a super weapon. Instead of being attacked by Decepticons, the convoy instead gets attacked by a new group of human villains.
  • In Season 3 of Young Justice (2010), it's revealed that there is a metahuman trafficking syndicate that operates by attacking and freeing metahuman prisoners as they are being transported from different prison facilities to the main meta prison Belle Reve.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, as there have been examples of criminal gangs attempting to free their compatriots as they're being transported to prison because vehicles are much less secure.
  • This is the reason why category A prisoners in the UK are moved between prison and court with armed police escorts.