The Robber (2010)
The Robber, a German/Austrian movie directed by Benjamin Heisenberg, is part of a wave of recent indie crime films that could be linked back to Refn’s Pusher trilogy, the current source of Australian thrillers such as The Square and Animal Kingdom, as well as other European releases such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films and Headhunters.
The Robber is the most restrained of all these and that works both for and against the film. It tells the true story of an Austrian marathon runner whose hobby was robbing banks. The movie in some ways also echoes the true tale Stander about a South African cop whose career turned in similar directions but whereas that film was highly stylized, director Heisenberg seeks and succeeds here at a minimalist action picture.
Andreas Lust plays the title role with a stone-faced exterior, drained of all emotion. In many ways it is a performance that towers over Ryan Gosling’s in Drive (and his predecessor’s, Ryan O’Neal in The Driver). These comparisons are fitting because Lust portrays a sort of (and I hate this word) existential protagonist who cannot stop robbing banks no matter his success as a runner and consistently pushes to “run” from the law and everything else till he has nothing left.
In the last half of the film, I kept wanting Heisenberg to punch up the robber’s tale but he never does. The action increases, and except for a few pieces of exhilarating soundtrack, he lets the happenings speak for themselves without interference. Again, this is good and bad because The Robber, an interesting film and must-see, resides somewhere in limbo. It doesn’t reach the heights of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket and on the other end of the spectrum does not achieve the incredible relentless energy of Pusher.
Perhaps what Heisenberg wanted was to create a realistic portrait of this man, an enigma but in so doing, it feels like he plays it a little too safe. Either way, the movie is one of the more interesting crime films to be released in recent years and deserves more attention than it has been paid. The last shot is one of my favorites ever.