Bank robber seeks thrills
The rush of marathon competition and victory would thrill most of us. Quiet, intense Johann Rettenberger (Lust) robs banks.
He’s hooked on the thrill of a double life. Winning championships is his day job. Daring heists are his true passion.
Art of the chase
This is a chase film and cinematic exploration of movement, darkness and light. The runner hones his crimes as carefully as his cardio training.
Mythic Rettenberger lives on the edge, fully alive. He has little use for the money. Like Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley in Heat, Rettenberger is compelled to pull off big heists. He vows never to return to prison.
Pumpgun Ronnie strikes
Wearing a Ronald Reagan mask, the real crook (Johann Kastenberger) robbed up to three banks a day, earning the nickname Pumpgun Ronnie.
The Robber is based on Martin Prinz’s novel On the Run, which tells how the marathoner terrorized Austrian banks in the 1980s. Prinz co-wrote the screenplay with Heisenberg.
Anatomy of a robber
Rettenberger loves solitude. He has no family ties or real friendships. This is his fatal flaw and his fascination.
The love of Erika (Franziska Weisz) entices Johann. In spite of herself, she is mesmerized by criminal life. The two see a crime movie on their first date. Erika gushes over a shootout scene. Johann smiles knowingly to himself.
Erika and Johann knew each other in childhood. Even then he was stealing treats from her mother. She offers Johann in an extra room in her flat.
Erika discovers Johann’s secret
One day she finds a cache of bills stuffed under his bed. Johann discovers Erika sitting on the carpet in his room, wearing the bank robber’s mask, her eyes teary.
Lust (Revanche) fascinates even in a spare story with little dialogue. Cinematographer Reinhold Vorschneider evokes chase and race scenes with Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner fascination.
Lovely, thrilling cinema
The low-budget film achieves great suspense. In one scene, Rettenberger leaps out of a window at police headquarters and flees.
The characters shape shift as Vorschneider films dark scenes with tremendous depth, color and visual interest. As Johann and Erika make love, the two come alive with the tentative commitment of those on the run.
Exquisite images abound. There’s a surge of runners before dawn, headlamps bobbing. Later, police flashlights close in as Rettenberger takes refuge in a dark forest.
Dialogue is another great treat in The Robber. “Jealous?” Erika asks Johann. “For a second,” he answers. “That’s nice,” she replies.
In a plot twist, Johann veers into violence. The runner’s face and whole body congeal when his parole officer (Markus Schleinzer) dogs him after a championship. This sets off the trophy-bearing Rettenberger.
Deeper than Bourne
Carefully crafted and executed, The Robber is a fine film that could have benefited from deeper character development. Still the anti-hero will fascinate you until he meets his fate on the autobahn.
At least Heisenberg gives you more food for thought than the famous Bourne films.
The Social Network‘s Andrew Garfield is set to star in an American remake of The Robber, according to Filmofilia. (4 out of 5 stars)
The Robber 2010 / NR (violence, sex) / 1 hour, 28 mins
Cast Overview: Andreas Lust, Franziska Weisz, Florian Wotruba, Johann Bednar, Markus Schleinzer, Peter Vilnai, Max Edelbacher
Director: Benjamin Heisenberg
Genre: Drama, Crime, Sports, Biopic
Languages: German with English subtitles