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Binge-watching Money Heist on Netflix

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A scene from "Money Heist" (La Casa de Papel | Image credit: Netflix
A scene from "Money Heist" (La Casa de Papel | Image credit: Netflix

If you love stories about meticulously planned robberies, Money Heist should be high on your “must watch” list. This Spanish language limited series is on Netflix and, once you start on it, it’s hard to stop. So, get the popcorn ready. Binge-watching has never been this good.

Am I biased? Maybe. I love heist stories. Die Hard, The Thomas Crown Affair (the remake with Pierce Brosnan), The Italian Job, Inside Man, Ocean’s Eleven (its sequels, not so much), Baby Driver, The Bank Job (because it was based on a true story and because it has this titillating premise — fictitious, it is said — that the robbery was carried out primarily to recover from a safe deposit box compromising photos of the late Princess Margaret with actor John Bindon who had ties with the London underworld) and, just recently, Den of Thieves.

But never have I enjoyed a heist story spread over episodes on a small screen. Money Heist was a first for me. A mysterious man who calls himself “The Professor” recruits eight career criminals and, in an abandoned house, train them in seclusion for five months. Each one is given an alias — Tokyo, Rio, Berlin, Nairobi, Denver… and getting personal is not allowed.

The objective: enter the Royal Mint of Spain and steal 2.4 billion euros. Not grab what it’s in the vault — that’s such a tired plot already — but to lock themselves in the building with hostages for 11 days, the time needed to print 2.4 billion euros in untraceable bills.

“The Professor” does not enter the Royal Mint building with the crew. He remotely controls and monitors the robbery while, at the same time, manipulating the police to keep them misled — a necessary ruse to allow the crew to remain in the Royal Mint for 11 full days. He befriends Raquel Murillo, the hand-picked hostage negotiator, and even manages to enter the secured area where only the police are allowed.

His crew is what you’d expect from a group where the ability to think and reason is not the dominant common denominator. While some are “professional” in their approach (carry out the heist, leave and disappear), there is at least one who gets seduced by the position of power he finds himself in. And there are at least two whose human compassion overcome their criminal intent. These “surprises” — unanticipated by their very nature — screw up the operation. And these screw-ups, big and small, are what make the story even more interesting.

Money Heist does not suffer from character stereotypes where the bad guys are bad-to-the-bone and the victims are flawless and faultless. On the contrary, the character you want to see dead — and soon — is a hostage. And you get that “Oh, just die, asshole” feeling very early on even before hostages are taken. Then, suddenly, it seems that one of the robbers (Berlin) heard your thought. He approaches the pathetic hostage (Arturo) who is sobbing like a wimp and addresses him.

Berlin: “Do you like cinema?… Do you like it?”

Arturo (in tears, nodding): “I’m… I’m a big fan.”

Berlin (smiling): “Have you realized in horror films there’s always someone at the beginning, like this, a nice guy like you and you think: ‘That guy’s going to die’ and then it happens…”

Arturo (sobbing): “No…”

Berlin (still smiling): “He always dies. Arturo, believe me, you’re that guy.”

Arturo sobs more loudly.

And you have this urge to stand up and applaud. But, no spoilers. Who who die and who live among the robbers and the hostages is something you will have to find our when you embark on your binge-watching adventure of Money Heist. Free up your weekend, get your munchies ready, curl up on the couch and enjoy.