Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The Robber" (2010)

Starring Andreas Lust, Franziska Weisz
Written and directed by Benjamin Heisenberg
Rated R - Violence, nudity/sex
Running Time: 101 minutes

It's always interesting to watch a movie and then find out that it's supposedly 'based on a true story.'  "The Robber," a 2010 film shot in Austria, is apparently based on the real life story of a marathon runner who also happened to rob banks.

Johann Rettenberger (Andreas Lust) is a convict recently released from prison.  While serving his sentence for attempted robbery, he has been training to run, circling the prison grounds and then also working on a treadmill in his cell.  When he gets out, he continues his training and begins running actual marathons.  He quickly becomes a national hero after setting a new record, but while his fame increases, he has to hide a particular secret: his marathon training is actually just a cover for the fact that he robs banks.

Johann puts on a mask, whips out a shotgun and uses his running skills to elude the police.  He eventually moves in with a young social worker named Erika (Franziska Weisz) and the two strike up a romantic relationship.  But when she discovers his double life, she turns him in to the police and Johann must go on the run, evading a massive manhunt.

There's not much to "The Robber" beyond that description above.  We never really learn why Johann does the things he does, other than apparently the excitement makes him feel alive.  Unless I missed something, I'm not sure.  But this film is quiet, very still, save for a few harsh bursts of intensity when Johann robs a bank. 

The acting is sedate, with lots of people just sort of sitting quietly and having hushed conversations.  Johann shouts when he's robbing banks, but otherwise he rarely speaks.  He mostly just runs. 

I don't know.  I guess maybe I just didn't "get" this one.  "The Robber" has met with some critical praise, but honestly I found it mostly just boring.  The running and chase sequences bring the film to life, but for much of its runtime, the film is just so... still.  Nothing much really happens, and Johann's escalating problems with the law almost seem like an afterthought. 

The idea behind the film is sound, in fact it's a pretty fascinating premise.  But there are so many better movies out there about robbers who lead double lives in such a fashion.  Indeed, Ben Affleck's "The Town", which obviously inspired the US DVD cover art for "The Robber," is a lot better and more entertaining.  The ideas it presents are rather fascinating, but in execution I found them dull.