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The Wright Stuff Week 14: The process of almost stealing a game

It was a up and down (and up?) week for the Raptors, and Delon Wright’s experience was no different. Even though he did his best to help the team steal a win.

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.

ACT 1

OK, OK, here we go. Shabazz has me. Time check? 8:20 in the second, 14 seconds on the clock. We’re up four. Juke left just to test him, no go. Now here comes Jonas — look at him flap those arms, but I’m not going right. Off he goes with the slip. Switch it up. Look right again, move move move. Bazz a step slow, and... whoa, the lane is open. This is easy.

Wait, watch for the help, is it coming? Keep going, keep going, keep going. Thanks JV, forget what I said earlier about your flapping — way to seal KAT on that run. Don’t need him lurking — whoa, Shabazz caught me up. Here we go...

Time to jump, angle disappearing, wait, wait — just hang. There we go, off the man, ball up, over the arms, over the hand, clear of the fingertips. He’s swinging at air.

Get the feet ready, here comes the landing. What’s up? Off glass, ah yeah, bucket. Up 6.

Now get back on D, Delon.

ACT 2

The 1955 film Rififi is somehow more and less complicated than all that. It’s director, Jules Dassin, made it in France after having been blacklisted from the United States as a supposed Communist sympathizer in 1948; he worked largely outside of Hollywood for the rest of his career. That Dassin happens to have made one of the finest heist films of all time, despite a five year politically-induced layoff and then exile, is nothing short of inspiring.

It’s funny then that the movie itself isn’t as upbeat. Still, it feels almost fun for a little while.

Typical of heist films, Rififi involves a crew. In this case, we get Tony, Jo, Mario, and Cesar (played by Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, and Dassin himself), and their plan for a jewel robbery. It’s joyful Mario who has the idea and in turn goes to Jo. Then, having just returned from a five year stretch in prison, wizened Tony is persuaded to join in. He calls upon Cesar to be the crew’s safecracker. It’s easy so far.

There are complications, of course — involving the usual mix of women, drugs, money, cops, and a mean gangster named Grutter. I won’t spoil all of that here, but instead return to the film’s most singular sequence: the heist, itself.

Shot in near-silence, Rififi’s jewel robbery is one of methodical and breathtaking style. We watch the men as they move in on the target building, avoid wandering eyes, and then, thrillingly, break through the floor — quietly! — to the safe room below. At one point an umbrella is used to catch falling debris.

I’m underselling things here; it truly is best to see for yourself. The ingenuity involved (which is a long way away from, say, Ocean’s Eleven’s gadget-for-all-seasons approach) makes the film an essential watch. And in its way, Rififi has become the blueprint film for all heist movies since. Showing the step-by-step process of the thing is now the thing. Not bad for a guy on the outs with Hollywood.

ACT 3

Here we go again, Shabazz is gonna try to cut me off, but I’ve got him back-pedalling this time. That’s trouble for him.

Crossover, down the lane, some dude named Georges-Hunt is gonna try something now too, I bet. Yep, there it is, lazy swipe, no problem. Keep going. Bazz doesn’t have the reach. But he’ll try again. Thibs probably screaming somewhere right now. Tune that out.

Lean into it, what did Dwyane say, absorb the contact, don’t fear it. Here comes the real problem. Dieng. Don’t worry about it — he’s a step late too. There’s the whistle.

Flip it up, there we go. Two more points. And-one. And we’re only down two. Still a whole quarter to go. We got this.

But it really is too bad about Tony, Jo, Mario, and Cesar. Somewhere around the midpoint of Rififi they snag the loot and make off like bandits. We root for them, with no obstacles in their way (even as we know there’s another half to the film, and dark clouds already forming on the horizon).

Delon’s tricky buckets weren’t enough, by the way. The Raptors still lost in Minnesota by six points.

Sometimes it really is impossible to get away.