Robbery introduces us to Frank, a veteran thief who has been diagnosed with dementia and lives with his son, Richie. A thief himself, Richie realizes that he is now in a race against time if he plans to make use of his father’s criminal expertise. In order to pay off Richie’s gambling debt, the duo plan a series of reckless heists that may pay off the debt but also garners the attention of a local crime boss.
Written and directed by Corey Stanton, Robbery is an ambitious take on the heist film that ultimately focuses more on relationships than ‘the big score’. Featuring a compelling set-up filled with issues that range from dealing with dementia to the every-day challenges of First Nations peoples, the film is ambitious in scope and has much to say, even as character prepare to bring down the big casino. In doing so, Robbery establishes itself as something entirely different and unique from other heist films such as Ocean’s 11, Hustlers or even The Art of the Deal. Through his use of characters, Stanton creates complex relationships that serves to give meaning to the various robberies in unexpected and creative ways.
Unfortunately, it’s also this ambition that causes Robbery to struggle by attempting to pack too much into its runtime. While the cast handle themselves well (especially veteran Art Hindle and relative newcomer Sera-Lys McArthur), the script simply wants to cover too much ground in a short period of time. In other words, though character relationships have intriguing and surprising backgrounds, the film never really has the opportunity to explore them and, as a result, many of scenes feel rushed. (In fact, had the film been released as a limited series, the script would have very much benefitted from the extra time in order to fully realize its potential.)
Though it takes the structure of a heist film, Robbery is most interested in what it means to deal with the sins of our fathers. Though working together, Richie is very-much burdened by his history with Frank. Even as Frank’s mind has begun to dissipate, Richie is left to wrestle with his complicated history with him. Despite the sadness of watching him slowly lose himself to dementia, Richie still holds anger towards him in a way that drives a wedge in their relationship. As a result of his inner rage, Richie fails to view Frank for his humanity and only for his usefulness in helping him learn how to properly commit crimes. (Similarly, Winona also carries a burden of her relationship with her own father that continues to motivate her as well.) Faced with his biggest heist, Richie must decide not only if he can trust Frank, but if he should forgive him for their past as well.
Featuring some interesting backstories and characters looking for the big score, Robbery has all the makings of an interesting and engaging heist film. Having said that, the script struggles to balance so many stories and twists in such a short runtime. Because of that, Robbery may steal your heart but doesn’t offer the payoff it deserve.
Robbery breaks into Toronto’s Carlton Theatre on October 4th, 2019.