In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_bye_bye_man

The Bye Bye Man

The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.

Thumb_book_of_love_ver2

The Book of Love

The feature debut of director and co-writer Bill Purple does not feature a single authentic moment. Imperfect would actually be a step up.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Festivals & Awards Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Robbery

  |   May Contain Spoilers

"Robbery," an unheralded British film about the Great Train Robbery of 1963, has crept into neighborhood theaters under cover of night. It works, it's good. It doesn't get sidetracked by a lot of cute dialog and psychoanalysis, like "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968). We don't need to be told why a man would rob a bank; we just want to know how he gets away with it, right? John Dillinger was not a folk hero in vain.

Advertisement

Robbery movies need two things: The robbery plan has to (a) hold water, and (b) be incredibly complicated but work like clockwork, with a couple of nice touches we weren't expecting. By now, a small genre of movies like this has grown up: "Rififi," "Topkapi," "Big Deal on Madonna St.," "The Jokers" and "Grand Slam" (a mediocre movie, to be sure, but with an absolutely first-class compressed-air device for lifting the acrobatic thieves over the electric-eye beams).

Most of the films are fantasies. In "The Jokers," two Englishmen lifted the crown jewels because they were there. In "Topkapi," a gymnast dangled upside down over the sealed glass cage for 45 minutes while Peter Ustinov anchored the other end of the rope as, indeed, only Peter Ustinov could. But all of these intricate schemes made sense. The trouble with "The Thomas Crown Affair" is that there SEEMS to be a labyrinthine plan, but when you sort it out it's just a bunch of guys meeting in front of the bank and sticking it up.

"Robbery" avoids this pitfall. It is a reconstruction of how the Great Train Robbery might have happened. Stanley Baker plays the mastermind, drawing together a team of specialists, timing the Edinburgh-London train with a stopwatch, working out in the park, whispering out of the side of his mouth at soccer games, springing the used bank-note expert from prison, insisting on two of everything, and in general behaving like the masterminds in these movies always behave.

Advertisement

There is a small intrigue between Baker and his, wife (Joanna Pettet), which was apparently thought obligatory. Every movie has to have sexy girl in it, right? The thing is, love scenes mess up good cops and robbers movies, unless they're played by Bogart and Bacall. "The Detective" would have been twice as good without all that phony psychological soul-searching by Lee Remick.

But audiences are slow to catch on, and think they want a girl in the picture. So Baker and Pettet have their intrigue, mercifully brief. Otherwise, "Robbery" stays on the track: The plans for the job move ahead meticulously, the job comes off more or less on schedule, the gang gets to look at their loot, most of the conspirators are caught because of loopholes you can't quarrel with, and Baker gets away.

A few people have told me they like the last scene of "Thomas Crown," where McQueen gives Dunaway the slip. They should see "Robbery." Baker double-crosses Joanna Pettet like she's never been double-crossed before. That'll teach her to mess up a good crime movie.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

2017 Golden Globes: Meryl Streep vs. Trumpland

Meryl Streep and other awards recipients shared their thoughts on an America under Donald Trump during last night's G...

Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" an Unfunny Parody of Sadness

A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.

The Return of Peter Cushing: Another Look at an Underrated Career

A look at highlights from the career of the great Peter Cushing.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus