Judge Joel Pearce would rather get stuck in a bank vault than watch this stinker again.
…and 10 easy tips to get away with it
Sometimes, a first-time director shows the most heart, a genuine passion for the project that shines through the lack of experience. Brilliant little gems emerge, unique yet crafted with love and strangely appealing. How to Rob a Bank is not one of those films. In fact, the whole film can pretty much be seen as a massive lapse in judgment by first timer Andrews Jenkins (is there more than one of him?), who isn't nearly as clever or original as he thinks he is.
The plot, a thin thread of narrative to hold gobs of conversation, centers around three characters in the middle of a bank robbery. Simon (Gavin Rossdale, Constantine) is the lead robber, a nervous pill-popping Brit who has no capability to keep cool under pressure. Locked in the vault are Jessica (Erika "Swimfan" Christensen), a computer hacker hired to hack the vault computer, and Jinx (Nick Stahl, Sin City), a cranky young blue-collar worker who wants to withdraw $20 without having to pay an ATM fee. Somehow, they have to work out a plan so that everyone can get out in one piece.
In the last 100 years, we've had no shortage of heist movies. There are even a number of good choices in the bank robbery subgenre, such as Dog Day Afternoon and Heat. There are bad ones, too, though I don't think I've seen any that are this poorly formulated. Heist movies thrive on suspense, action, and unsuspected psychology. Who will snap? Who isn't who they seem? What surprises lurk around the next corner? In this case, the answer to all of those questions can be handled by one word: nothing.
To be fair, it isn't really the actors' fault. All of the main performers do a half-decent job and dive into their roles with more enthusiasm than the film deserves. The problem is the script, which plays out like a how-not-to list for thrillers. It's horribly overwritten, for one thing, and the length of each conversation destroys any chance that the film will build up any real suspense. It's also humorless and cold, leaving us with no one to root for or care about. There aren't any significant twists in the story, and we never feel like we're seeing real people trying to escape a desperate situation. Most importantly, though, it has dialogue like a David Mamet film, except it has no ear for cleverness or humanity. The characters drone on and on, making the painstaking 81 minutes feel much, much, longer.
Certainly, the cover doesn't help matters any. On it, we are promised quite
a list of things:
Don't fall prey to these vicious lies. Watching How to Rob a Bank is a lot like being held hostage, but with the fear replaced by bewildering boredom. By the time we get to the deus ex machina ending, it doesn't even matter that Jenkins has wimped out of his own script. We know it isn't going anywhere, no matter how long he would take to finish the story properly.
Technically, the disc arrives in pretty good shape. There's a hefty sound mix and the image quality does capture all of the silly visual dazzle that operates as a replacement for real action in the film. The only extra on the disc is a short production featurette, but I'm very thankful I didn't have to slug through a commentary track on this one.
How to Rob a Bank has arrived in an already overcrowded and generally disappointing genre. Don't waste any time on this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Production Featurette
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