The Robber (Der Räuber) Benjamin Hesienberg

The Robber (Der Räuber) Benjamin Hesienberg
The Robber proves that you don't need to be in Hollywood to make great chase scenes. Our anti-hero, Johann Rettenberger (Andreas Lust), is a champion marathon runner who robs banks on the side. When he can't drive away from a heist, he runs from the cops like a rabbit on caffeine. The camera follows Rettenberger through Austria's winding cobblestone streets in breathtaking sequences that are the highlight of this drama.

Director Benjamin Hesienberg has made an entertaining thriller using the style and tone of a European art movie: minimal music, a moody blue-grey colour scheme and long, uninterrupted shots. That's a welcome surprise. What's more, Lust delivers a convincing performance as the armed robber; his eyes are cold and his soul empty.

Though loosely based on a real person, this Retternberger remains a cipher from start to finish. His icy exterior never changes from the time he leaves prison to finding a girlfriend. He never reveals anything about his past or family; his affair with the well-meaning Erika (Franziska Weisz) is unconvincing and abrupt. I wanted to see more sides to this fellow.

Questions: is running a metaphor for a lost soul? Does running mean anything beyond feeling an adrenaline rush? And why is this guy robbing banks when he could be winning races? The Robber offers no answers or clues when it could have delivered a powerful statement.

At least The Robber proves that a subtitled movie doesn't have to be overly cerebral; it can offer thrills. How will the Hollywood remake by Sony stack up? (Kino)