'Heist' Netflix 2021: True Crime Show Creator on Why We Root for the Bad Guy

Heist on Netflix is a six-part documentary series covering three separate heists, explained by the very people who actually pulled them off. What makes Heist different from other heist documentaries and shows is two things. One, the stories in the series are not violent, nobody dies and nobody has been harmed in any way. Two, the people pulling off the heists are just ordinary people. "We wanted people from all walks of life", Derek Doneen explained to Newsweek, "people who are a little bit more average, like you and me."

Heist's three subjects are a 21-year-old former nurse, a man who just wants to become a father and a retired sportsman who all want a better quality of life for themselves and their families. We are all guilty of wanting more than what we have and that is what Heist gets right, you empathize with the "bad guy" to a certain degree.

Filmed over two years, each story follows the same pattern. Part one of the story follows the heist itself, how these "ordinary" people got away with millions of dollars and their motivations for doing so.

"We wanted it to be sexy and fast-paced and energetic and lean into the tropes of other great heist movies and TV shows. But again, we wanted it to have a lot of heart and I think the way you do that is by uncovering and unpacking somebody's backstory, somebody's life story, understanding all the things that happened that led them to make that choice," Doneen explained.

Part two of each story then focuses on their monumental fall from grace. Although each subject effectively got away with their crimes, the consequences of their actions continue to have a long-lasting impact on their lives today. By part two you're conflicted, their crime was always going to catch up with them but you don't want them to pay for it in anyway.

Part one, titled "Sex Magick Money Murder," delves deep into the story of 21-year-old Heather Tallchief, who stole $3 million of Vegas casino cash.

A story rooted in tragedy and romance, Tallchief had fallen hopelessly in love with prison poet and paroled murder Roberto Sollis. Following nights of mysticism and the practice of "sex magick", she found herself behind the wheel of one of the largest armored truck robberies in Las Vegas history.

At first, Tallchief and Sollis lived a life of pure bliss, but things took a turn when Tallchief fell pregnant. She later gave birth to their son Dylan and turned her back on Solis. She lived in Amsterdam on a fake passport until 2005, when she decided to turn herself in to ensure a better life for her son.

Heather is the only character who does not appear in the Heist documentary. Instead, she is lying low after being released from prison in 2010 and is played by actresses Lisa Lord and Emree Franklin in re-enactment scenes.

The current whereabouts of Solis are unknown. If he is still alive, he would be 75 years old.

Heist Netflix true crime
Emree Franklin as Heather Tallchief in HEIST-Sex Magick Money Murder. Netflix

Episodes two and three, titled "The Money Plane," focus on the stranger than fiction tale of Karl Monzon, who managed to carry out a huge heist at Miami International Airport in 2005.

After two miscarriages, Monzon was determined to do whatever it took to adopt a baby girl. He watched crime shows and planned a heist from Miami International Airport, escaping with $7.4 million.

The FBI was hot on his heels but did not expect to find themselves in the middle of a kidnapping and extortion plot.

Monzon spent 11 years in jail for his crime. Only $1.2 million was uncovered by the FBI but the remaining $6.2 million has never been found.

The final two episodes explore the misadventures of Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger a former elite league softball star turned suburban dad working in a distillery.

Bored and eager to improve his family's quality of life, Toby began smuggling bottles of Poppy Van Winkle, an extremely rare brand of bourbon, out of the distillery.

At first, Toby began selling the bottles for cash within his hometown of Frankford, Kentucky. Soon, however, his small business went from a few deals here and there to full-blown organized crime.

When 200 bottles of the legendary bourbon worth $1,000 to $4,000 were found to be missing, the local sheriff stopped at nothing to find the criminal mastermind behind the heist.

Toby was sentenced to 15 years in prison in September 2017 but was set free after 30 days when the defence requested shock probation.

Each story is told from the perspective of the very people who pulled them off, mixed with slick archival footage, re-enactments, and contributing interviews from witnesses, family, friends, and the investigators.

The concept behind the show was "true-crime with a lot of heart," which is successfully woven throughout each story.

For example, in the case of Tallchief, viewers get an in-depth insight into her background that may have led her to commit the heist. Heather was vulnerable. Her parents were divorced and addicts, she had suffered abuse at the hands of her stepmother and she had worked as a nurse at the height of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco.

Doneen reflected: "Because we're hearing it from her perspective, we're hearing from this person, we're unpacking themes of love and addiction and heartbreak and adolescence, and there's so much so much there that gets glossed over. If you're just hearing it from other people, then it just becomes about the 1-2-3 of what happened during the crime."

Make no mistake, the series isn't about "glorifying" theft. In fact, Heist on Netflix does the opposite. You may fantasize a little about having millions of dollars to your name but Heist questions whether this perceived freedom and financial comfort is worth the cost.

Doneen shares: "In any great heist story, there's a little bit of wish fulfilment right, it's like we walk out of a screening when we go see in Ocean's 11, or whatever. And, you know, we talk about whether we wouldn't be able to pull something like that off if we were in their shoes and that's, that's sort of the fun of a good heist movie, or good heist show. And we wanted to play into that a little bit. And in doing so you kind of have to be able to root for the bad guy a little, right?

"It's never to excuse the crimes and the things they did. In fact, I don't think you'll walk away from any of the three stories, feeling inspired to go pull off a heist of your own, but along the way, it was about understanding the how, and the why and understanding everything that these people did in their lives, that led to that moment of pulling off a crime like this."

Heist is streaming on Netflix now.