The Robber "Der Rauber" (2010) dir. Benjamin Heisenberg
Starring: Andreas Lust and Franziska Weisz
By Blair Stewart
If you're going to pick an interesting hobby, you could do worse than a bank robbery. A dry procedural about an extraordinary man makes for one of the surprises of the Berlinale.
"The Robber" relates the life of Austrian marathon runner, thrill junkie and career criminal Johannes Rettenberger. Adapted from the book "Der Rauber", Rettenbergen, as played with quiet pathological menace by Andreas Lust, had a public 'lust' for running and a private one for stealing. Upon his release from prison Johannes easily shifts back into his old habits with an animal compulsion to do only what he knows and desires, often for the spike of his heart rate as he barrels across Vienna from police gunfire. In due time Johannes hooks-up with his old lady Erika, who as a criminal case worker for the local government has another form of weakness-she loves the bastard.
Relinqished of melodrama, "The Robber" observes a man who's great at the skill of his own downfall with a clinical eye and a shrug. No explanation of a tortured childhood or disgust with modern society, Johannes just wanted to go fast, and all the better while being chased. This was an objective tactic used recently in Mann's "Public Enemies" to middling effect; John Dillinger was presented both as a tough-guy myth and a mortal who just enjoyed stealing, whereas Rettenberger comes across as a single-minded force of nature in a run or on the run.
Director Heisenberg shows a great skill for action that's becoming lost in American cinema, there's fast-cutting chases but for once it's action we can follow. The script is tight and drained of artifice, and as serious as a German bellhop. Worth seeing alone for the third act surprise, and worthy of being remade by Hollywood down the road should it be noticed.