The Austrian-German film “The Robber” is compelling on a number of fronts. Initially, due to its genesis— it’s the true story of Johann Rettenberger, a world class marathon runner with a bad habit of robbing banks at gunpoint. But also for its gritty, dark portrayal of a conflicted soul who seems compelled towards self-destruction at all costs. Rettenberger, played by Andreas Lust, is on edge from the moment we first meet him, madly circling the prison yard as he trains for future marathons. Once released from prison, for a failed hold-up, he shrugs off job prospects due to their conflict with his “training schedule,” which also includes several adrenalin charged robberies with requisite escapes on foot. Enter Erika (Franziska Weisz,) who presents his best chance at transitioning to a normal life.
Despite Erika’s best efforts, and a nosey probation officer who seems to haunt the marathon finish lines where he knows he will find Rettenberger, the thrill of the robbery seems to outweigh anything else. With increasing sctutiny and daring robberies, not to mention unnerving escapes, Rettenberger manages to feed his addiction, and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. While not exactly a “scared straight” cinema experience, The Robber did un-glamorize the profession of the bank robber a bit, however, having a marathon runner’s stamina seems to be a perfect pre-requisite for some success.
Edgy, dark and compelling, The Robber is engrossing and worth a look. It plays at the Loft Cinema on August 10 for one screening only.