'Getaway' retells the Lufthansa heist


March 06, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

The idea of genuine nobility among thieves may be too generous a concept. But there is craftsmanship, camaraderie and a sometimes brutal code that says, "Loyalty ends where inconvenience begins."

Such is the thrust, anyway, of "The $10 Million Getaway," the latest USA cable network world premiere movie, at 9 tonight on the basic service. Starring John Mahoney, Tony Lo Bianco and Karen Young, it's an ironic crime caper film based upon the celebrated actual robbery of a Lufthansa Airlines cargo hold at New York's Kennedy Airport, in December 1978.

It was one of the world's biggest hauls ever, as a character in the movie cracks, "to put that much money in your pocket normally, you have to be a senator."

In reality, only two people were ever convicted in connection with the $10-million robbery, the airline employees who provided inside information. This new movie suggests what happened to the rest of the gang, as well as how they planned it.

Mahoney narrates the action in flashback style. He's Jimmy "The Gent" Burke, a professional thief who specializes in airline targets. Upon his release from prison to a halfway house in Queens, he is engaged by mobster Tony "Ducks" Carallo (Lo Bianco) to plan and execute a $20-million hit on Lufthansa.

The craft of his profession is seen as Mahoney exclaims, "I'd knock off this joint for the sheer pleasure of doin' it, even if there was nothing in it." But he draws on his own ethics code by refusing to make killing a security guard part of the plan.

The first half of the movie essentially tells the tale from the casing of the joint to the execution of the crime and, ultimately, the inevitable slip-up by one gang member. The second half outlines the fates of the gang members, and it wouldn't be fair to say much more -- except that a curious form of justice thwarts legal efforts to find the criminals.

This is no light-hearted "Hot Rock," and the film has a dark and occasionally violent tone. But viewers may find themselves engaged by these criminals nonetheless. And one cute touch is the presence of actor Mike Starr, reprising his role as gangster Frenchie from the recent feature film "GoodFellas," which also dealt with the Lufthansa heist.

CABLE CLUTTER? -- If you've noticed interruptions of cable signals on a number of services this week, blame it on the sun.

According to Baltimore County's Comcast Cablevision, from about 4:25 to 4:38 p.m. daily from March 2-9, the alignment of the sun, the Galaxy I telecast satellite and the receiving station could cause snow on about a dozen services. Affected channels, for a maximum of 12 minutes any day, include: A&E, CBN, Cinemax, '' CNN, Discovery, Disney, ESPN, Headline News, TNN, Showtime, USA, WOR and WTBS.

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