Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Criminal: The Robber

Running is a solitary sport, but Johann Rettenberger is not exactly a social guy. It is also a handy talent for his chosen line of work: armed robbery. There will indeed be plenty of running and daring daylight larceny in Benjamin Heisenberg’s existential crime drama, The Robber (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Recently released from prison, Rettenberger used to while away his days running round and round the yard and spend his nights chugging away on a treadmill. Frankly, his routine has not changed much with freedom, but at least the scenery varies. Of course, he is not one for square jobs, so he simply knocks over banks when he needs some cash. He really ought to be going straight, particularly when his out of nowhere finish in the Vienna Marathon shocks the Austrian sports world, making him a mid-sized celebrity over night. Yet aside from regular exercise, Rettenberger is not about doing what’s good for him.

Rettenberger might sound like he is cut from the same cloth as the surfer robbers in Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, but he is really more closely akin to Meursault in Camus’ The Stranger. Similarly distant emotionally, Rettenberger also commits a hitherto out-of-character act of impulsive violence that will set off a sensational series of events. A great deal of running will also be involved.

Somehow, Andreas Lust is simultaneously impassive and twitchy as the loner protagonist. A performance that keeps viewers consistently off balance, just as it appears he is about to finally plumb Rettenberger’s depths, he erects more barriers to keep us at bay. Lust also clearly trained like a mad man for the part, shedding any trace of body fat to play the anti-social crook.

Though Heisenberg effectively stages a long, complex chase sequence that serves as the centerpiece for the film, Robber is far quieter and ruminative than most action fare. While not nearly as self-consciously stylized as Tom Tykwer’s vaguely thematically related Run Lola Run, Heisenberg and cinematographer Reinhold Vorschneider bring a distinctly chilly aesthetic to bear on their road-running morality tale. An intriguing blend of art-house and action, The Robber opens this Friday (4/29) in New York at the Cinema Village.