A bank thief on the run
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, May 20, 2011
Here’s a great idea for a movie. It’s the story of a world-class marathon runner who moonlights as — get this — a bank robber. What could possibly motivate someone so talented to risk his life and career, behind a Halloween mask, raincoat and pump-action shotgun, by knocking off a series of banks, in broad daylight?
Better yet, it’s all true.
Based on the novel “On the Run” by Martin Prinz — which was in turn inspired by the bizarre, real-life story of an actual Austrian marathoner who made a hobby of robbing banks in the 1980s — the movie “The Robber” is the fictionalized account of Johann Kastenberger, here called Rettenberger and played by Andreas Lust (“Revanche”).
Unfortunately, it answers none of the questions the movie gives rise to.
Does Rettenberger need the money in order to finance his training? If so, why does he stuff the loot in a trash bag under his bed, never to look at it again? Or is he driven by some deeper demon, a childhood inadequacy or societal resentment? There is, after all, that Reagan mask. Good luck figuring any of that out, because you’re on your own here.
Directed by Benjamin Heisenberg, who co-wrote the screenplay with Prinz, “The Robber” is one of the most abstemious thrillers in recent memory. It’s as hard to read as the ever-present blank expression on Lust’s face, which makes Rettenberger look like he’s forever trying to recall some long-forgotten phone number, even when he’s having sex with his girlfriend (Franziska Weisz), who naively takes him in.
The only time there’s a hint of emotion is when Rettenberger takes up the trophy from a race he has just won to deliver a fatal beating to the hapless parole officer (Markus Schleinzer) who has been badgering him to get a job. (The movie opens with Rettenberger’s release from prison after six years for robbery, upon which he almost immediately resumes his racing and robbery careers.)
That said, there are some fabulously shot sequences, such as a chase through a parking garage — with Rettenberger on foot, and the cops in cars — and a nighttime dragnet in the woods, through which our antihero manages, almost miraculously, to slip.
The weird thing is you kind of don’t want him to make it.
Rettenberger is not one of those charming rogues we see so often in the movies. (George Clooney might play him over here.) Antisocial to the point of sociopathy, he is as unlikable as he is unknowable.
What drives many crime dramas is the hope, however subliminal, that the guy will maybe — just maybe — get away with it. Take that hope away, and you just might be left glancing at your watch, not to see how fast Rettenberger can run, but to see how much time is left before your own patience runs out.
Contains obscenity, violence, sex and nudity. In German with English subtitles.