Friday, October 15, 2010

NYFF Review #5: The Robber

The Robber, by Germany's Benjamin Heisenberg, is an unfortunate dud. It's based on a true story about Johannes Rettenberger (taciturn Andreas Lust), a convict who trained day in and day out, running on the treadmill, throughout his spotless stay in prison. Upon his release, he starts up three projects: (1) a romance with the social worker who lands him a job (Franziska Weisz, the movie's best feature), (2) a career as a champion marathon runner, and (3) a continuation of a shadow career as a masked bank robber who couldn't care less about the money he's amassing (stonefaced throughout, Lust's Rettenberger lets loose only one smile, after winning his first marathon).

Sounds good, right? It's not. Not if you've seen Ulu Grosbard's Straight Time, an infinitely better look at a convict trying and failing to go square. This movie apes that one step for step for its first hour, and then tries to pull its fat out of the fire by showing us a lot of running, by a man who's as hooked on adrenaline as Dustin Hoffman's Max Dembo was in Grosbard's film. Only problem is, Rettenberger is a dead man through and through. He's healthier than all of us, but he's resigned himself to the grave. However, Dembo was a clever, dashing man who wanted to live. Hardy or not, it's very easy to die when you're a man who has no taste for life anymore, as Rettenberger is. (And, by the way, why the heck was this movie called The Robber? Wouldn't The Runner have been a more apt title?)

So, given that glaring misstep, what is it that director Heisenberg is having us watch? A hale lamb going to the slaughter? No thanks. As fascinating and questionable Rettenberger's disconnect might be, the movie fails to make me care how fleetly he can escape, or how how eloquently the camera can keep him in frame (and there are some exciting moments on that score). The Robber is still stands largely as a waste of time. Go and watch Straight Time instead. I'm almost sure you haven't seen it yet. And BONUS: you actually mind what happens to our antihero.

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