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How to Rob A Bank: Great Fun for a Tiny Audience

How to Rob a Bank (IFC, 2008)
Written and directed by Andrews Jenkins

IFC films is one of the most frustrating and confusing production companies at large for the Doc. They have been pushing this whole “date and day” release bit for the past year and a half or so. For those of you that don’t know what that is, when their films are released, they get thrown into a handful of theaters across the country (Mostly residing in Los Angeles, New York, and maybe Chicago), and they also premiere the film through cable outlets in the form of “On Demand.”

If your cable company offers this service, you can watch the film the same day of its limited release in theaters from the comfort of your own home for about seven dollars.

This may vary depending on where you live, but where I reside, it will cost you seven dollars. It frustrates me because I would much rather be able to go to the theater and watch the films; I’m still a true believer in the big screen experience. However, even though I’m in a decent sized market, these are not films that we will get if they will only be in the big three for a couple of weeks. It confuses me because I don’t really understand why the studio would even waste the money to stick the films in a few theaters if they are banking on making most of their money through the cable outlets.

The only thing that makes sense is that because the films are also in theaters at the time they are on cable, they can charge a couple of extra bucks; your average price for a pay per view movie that has just been released to DVD is 3-4 dollars. So, once again, I’m frustrated.

Another annoying aspect to this system is that the films are for the most part pretty damn good. The only one of these films I’ve seen that I found to be a total waste of time was the complete clusterfuck Flakes. Otherwise, I’ve caught quite a few gems: Finishing the Game, The Killing of John Lennon, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. And now that I’ve watched How to Rob a Bank, I have yet again watched a very fun and entertaining film that very few people are going to get the chance to see at their local multiplex.

How to Rob a Bank is not to be confused with The Bank Job, a film that covers a lot of the same territory and actually got a wide release this past weekend. It is also not to be confused with this weekend’s other wide release, 10,000 B.C., which let’s be honest, a bank robbery wouldn’t have made the film any stupider.

We’ve seen an ass ton of bank robbery/heist films over the years; at least I know I have. HTRAB starts off in the middle of the action giving us a fresher take on this fairly tired sub-genre. The robbers have already stormed the bank with their guns and threats; the hostages are already spread out on the floor; the cops are already sitting outside with their guns aimed at the entrance, and one of the hostages, Jinx (Nick Stahl) is trapped in the vault with one of the robbers, Jessica (Erika Christensen).

We soon learn through flashbacks that Jinx walked into the bank in the middle of the chaos and ran into the vault for safety with the vault doors closing behind him. Jessica was already in there typing away on a bank computer trying to get into the safes within the vault, we presume. Let’s just say the film throws in a few twists from this point that frankly, I didn’t see coming, which is a nice surprise in itself considering how many of these types of films I’ve seen in my lifetime.

The heist is actually just a backdrop to this quirky character comedy, which is yet another reason that this film feels so fresh and fun. The majority of the film involves Jinx talking on his cell phone to the head robber, Simon (Gavin Rossdale) and the head hostage negotiator, Degepse (Simon Crews). At one point he even brings them both in for a three-way chat. Simon is trying to work out some kind of deal with Jinx to get the vault open so he can get his money, and Degepse is, of course, using Jinx as his inside man to hopefully help him get the hostages out safely.

The other aspect to the story is the developing friendship between Jinx and Jessica. Through an intervening third party, Nick (David Carradine), Jessica soon learns that this isn’t your everyday bank robbery and there is a possibility she is not meant to get out of this alive or at the very least without going to jail. Soon, her and Jinx start conjuring plans to not only take the money for themselves but to also figure out a way to get Jessica out of there without the cops realizing she was in on the set-up.

Andrews Jenkins, in his directing and writing debut, conjures up a clever heist film that might not be up to the highs of say, Spike Lee’s Inside Man, but it’s a hell of a lot better than most films of its type in recent years. HTRAB most definitely deserved a wider theatrical release.

All of the actors are up to the challenge as well, even Rossdale, who proves to be very convincing as a heavy. He’s also got his own funny subplot involving him and one of his men who can’t seem to keep his gun from jamming. Erika Christensen gives far and away her best performance to date, and she’s also sexy as hell, which doesn’t hurt. I really wish her and Scarlett Johanssen could trade places because I think Christensen has more talent in her pinky. I also enjoyed Nick Stahl for probably the first time in his career.

If you’ve got the On-Demand service or are lucky enough to find this popping up in a theater close to you, it’s worth a look. It will also be coming out on DVD in the next couple of months, so whenever you get a chance, check it out. You should not be disappointed.


Sam Loomis

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