The Brink's Job is a 1978 film directed by William Friedkin and starring Peter Falk, Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Warren Oates, Gena Rowlands, and Paul Sorvino. It is based on the Brink's robbery of 1950 in Boston, where almost 3 million dollars was stolen.
Small-time Boston crook Tony Pino (Peter Falk) tries to make a name for himself. He and his five associates pull off a robbery whenever they can. Tony and his gang easily rob over $100,000 in cash from a Brink's armored car, after which Tony disguises himself as a sparkplug salesman to get an inside look at Brink's large and so-called "impregnable fortress" headquarters in the city's North End, a company renowned for unbreachable security as a private "bank" throughout the East Coast.
Once inside, Tony realizes that Brink's is anything but a fortress and that employees treat the money "like garbage." Still wary of Brink's public image, Tony breaks in one night after casing the building. He finds that only two doors in the building are locked, and one is easily bypassed by leaping a gate. The only thing locked in the building is the vault.
Tony also realizes that despite what Brink's claims, there is only a 10-cent alarm in the vault room itself, almost impossible to set off. It appears that Brink's had relied so much on its reputation that it had not even bothered locking the doors. Pino begins to plan a robbery, using the rooftop of a neighboring building as a watch tower.
Tony and his dim brother-in-law Vinnie (Allen Garfield) put together a motley gang of thieves. They include the debonair Jazz Maffie (Paul Sorvino) and a slightly deranged Iwo Jima veteran, Specs O'Keefe (Warren Oates), who proposes to blow open the Brink's safe with a bazooka. Over the crew's objections, Pino also invites the arrogant fence Joe McGinnis (Peter Boyle) to be in on the job.
The robbers on the night of Jan. 17th, 1950 make off with more than a million dollars in cash, along with another million-plus in securities and checks. Brink's, a company that prides itself in the safekeeping of money, is nationally embarrassed by what the press is calling "the crime of the century." Even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Sheldon Leonard) takes a personal interest in finding the culprits, even so much as creating a makeshift FBI office in Boston.
Law enforcement agents begin rounding up suspects. They come to the home of Tony and Mary Pino, as they often do for crimes in the area. Mary (Gena Rowlands) is so familiar with them by now, she makes the cops dinner. Tony is brought in for questioning, but reacts with indignation at being accused.
The crooks begin to crack, however. McGinnis infuriates them by destroying a large sum of the hold-up money, claiming the bills could be traced. He also hangs onto the rest, defying threats by Pino and his cohorts to hand over their shares.
Specs and another of the gang, Stanley Gusciora, go on the road to meet his "sugar doughnut" in Pittsburgh. They are picked up by Pennsylvania State Police on a burglary charge en route at Bradford, Pennsylvania and are each handed a long jail sentence, Gusciora at the Western Penitentiary-Pittsburgh. Specs grows more and more disturbed behind bars, demanding that money from his cut be sent to his ill sister. In interrogation, Specs and Stanley are pressured more each day to reveal whatever they might know about the Brink's job. Specs ultimately confesses.
One by one, the rest of the gang is apprehended, mainly by the Boston Police Department. Tony is on his way to jail in Boston and so is Vinnie, but they unexpectedly find themselves hailed as heroes by people on the street for having pulled off one of the great crimes of all time. One teen remarks to a clearly pleased Pino, "You're the greatest thief who ever lived! Nobody will ever do what you did, Tony!"
The film was developed by director John Frankenheimer who then lost interest in it. Dino De Laurentiis then offered the project to William Friedkin who was looking for something to do after a proposed adaptation of Born on the Fourth of July with Al Pacino had been unable to secure finance. A script had been written but Friedkin insisted on rewriting it with Wally Green, who had just written Sorcerer for the director.
During the production, a number of conflicts and concerns with Teamsters Union members occurred, ultimately resulting in four indictments and two convictions of Teamsters for attempts to solicit non-existent jobs.
The movie was filmed primarily on location in Boston. Locations included:
Reviewing the film in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert wrote, "The movie was directed by William Friedkin, best known for the violence and shock of The Exorcist, The French Connection, and Sorcerer. What he exhibits here, though, is a light touch, an ability to orchestrate rich human humor with a bunch of characters who look like they were born to stand in a police lineup. Falk, playing Pino, has never been better in a movie. He gives the guy a nice, offbeat edge; Pino is a natural hustler looking for the angle in everything. [...] Friedkin has great control of tone. He gives us characters who are comic and yet seem realistic enough that we share their feelings, and he gives us a movie that's funny and yet functions smoothly as a thriller. This sort of craft is sometimes hard to appreciate - The Brink's Job is so well put together that it doesn't draw attention to its direction. [...] And the acting is great to savor. The characters are richly detailed, complicated, given dialog that's written with almost musical cadences."
Friedkin later said the film "has some nice moments, despite thinly drawn characters, but it left no footprint. There's little intensity or suspense and the humour is an acquired taste. The film doesn't shout, it doesn't sing - it barely whispers".
In August 1978, 15 unedited reels of the film were stolen at gunpoint. While the robbers demanded a $1 million ransom, the money was never paid because the robbers, showing a distinct lack of filmmaking knowledge, hijacked outtakes and dailies. Positive prints of negatives were being held by Technicolor in New York City, so the material was replaced with no significant delay. The robbers, however, made a ransom call, which triggered an investigation by the FBI. During the ransom call, Friedkin told the robbers to "get a projector and enjoy the film; it was all theirs."