I do not know who the good guys are anymore and who are the bad guys? – A realisation asserted by a lead character in the Spanish heist thriller summarises the sentiment of its audience once they get acquainted with the individuals on both sides of the cat-and-mouse game between the mastermind of a unique robbery and law enforcement agencies working the case. The Netflix series, Money Heist, is addictive for its intelligent plot and builds a compelling narrative on emotional dynamics and interpersonal relationships.
Eight seasoned criminals, codenamed after cities and conducted by a mysterious mastermind called the ‘Professor’, raid the Royal Mint of Spain with an intricate plan to print and escape with 2.4 billion euros. The robbers take the employees of the Mint and a group of visiting students hostage and make them aid the heist. Inspector Raquel is put in charge of the case and she begins negotiations with the mastermind who is quite amusing and flirtatious on calls operating from a secret command center. The heist is meticulously planned by the Professor over years and the gang briefings take place at a dilapidated villa where the Professor conducts his masterclasses to prepare his team for possible contingencies. Inside the mint, multiple complex relationships develop between the robbers and the hostages, some of them seemingly threatening to the plan. Professor seems to have planned everything but not the part where he falls for Raquel, breaking his own rule against emotional attachments. The loyalties shift, rebels emerge, mutiny occurs while the gap between the police and the Professor closes.
In a departure from the male-dominated heist genre, the story is narrated from a female perspective and takes a long hard look at some of the accepted definitions of crime. The Professor explains in robin hood-style that how we are trained to see good guys and bad guys, and it’s not a crime if the money they are taking away doesn’t belong to anyone and no blood is spilled. He cites instances when Central European Bank repeatedly printed billions of euros that went directly from the mint to the bankers. The authorities didn’t call it theft but ‘liquidity injection’ instead. The Italian anti-fascist song ‘Bella ciao’ highlights the idea of resistance that governs the conduct of the deli-masked robbers in red overalls. They are the rebellion against the establishment that serves the privileged and they have a plausible ethical justification for their actions. When the police agree on the release of one high-profile hostage over eight others and spread lies about the criminal history of Berlin to mislead the public, it becomes hard for the people at large to root for a particular side.
The drama could have done without its queasy dose of fillers that weigh down an otherwise fast-paced captivating storyline. Gratuitous romantic conversations and sequences of internal conflicts that break out over trivial differences between robbers are a contrast to the various interesting subversions of the heist genre used in the series. It’s great how the series allows the characters to develop but the tropes of a soap opera could have been simply avoided in the interest of crispness.
Photo Credit: Netflix