The building blocks of a really good heist picture are in place in writer-director Corey Stanton’s “Robbery,” an indie thriller from The Great White North.
There’s an old ex-con suffering from dementia, played by respected character actor Art Hindle, whose credits go back to 1980’s “Porky’s” and 1974’s “Black Christmas.”
His kid, Richie (Jeremy Ferdman, a younger Aaron Paul) is a clumsy newcomer to stocking-cap capers. He’s interested in learning.
“The only reason I’m here is you’ve got fifty years of serious experience floating aroind that dying brain’a yours!”
There’s a female crime boss (Jennifer Dale) in this “lawless, Godless” corner of rural Canada. And she’s not to be trifled with.
“You have sticky fingers. I need to take them.”
The dialogue is hard-boiled and spot-on.
“Sometimes,” a stolen goods “fence” (Andy Morgan) lectures naive young Richie, “the price of poverty is a conscience.”
And there are twists and double-crosses aplenty, a couple of doozies that flip the script in the third act.
The cast isn’t bad. The fact that “Robbery” doesn’t pay points more to editing tweaks (it lacks suspense, first frame to last) and script-workshopping than any single fundamental flaw. Sell this to a major studio and the remake could be gold.
Frank (Hindle) is introduced in a doctor’s office, stumbling through mental acuity tests. His dementia has taken away his short term memory.
“Who ARE you?”
But he has a decent handle on the past. That’s why Richie is taking care of him, shoplifting and holding up the occasional convenience store to keep Frank fed and gas in their battered 1980 Chevy Malibu.
The “past” is one clue about this relationship. Frank and his late partner used to steal big — art, jewelry, cash. The “meeting” is another. Richie has a gambling addiction, but at least you meet the nicest people there. Winona (Sera-Lys McArthur) is a Native American bartender at the local casino.
Might she have the $50,000 Richie needs to keep the hoodlums who keep showing up at the garage where he works, making throat-slitting and trigger-pulling gestures to his face?
His coming-on-strong boss (Tara Spencer-Nairn) sure hopes so.
The heists Richie enlists his father’s advice about are routine and inept. He’s grabbing electric toothbrushes and the like. He needs a lecture from the fence. Writer-director Stanton makes the thefts so dull you wish he’d spent months watching how such sequences are put together in classics of the genre.
Not that “Robbery” is really about the work. Clock ticking down on Richie, the rising level of threats (that “take” his “fingers” bit), the need for cash and the places they might find it, the complications of all these peripheral characters, all take a back seat to Frank’s memory, which comes and goes, and Richie’s relationship to it and reliance upon it.
When you’re leaving Post-It notes on the steering wheel so that your demented get-away driver remembers who you are, you’re up against it. Richie quizzes Frank to keep his mind as sharp as it’s going to get, Frank keeps quizzing Richie on what to grab once he’s gotten in the door.
Neither inspires much confidence.
The whole affair veers into one “surprise” topping the next one in the third act, when compact simplicity would have better served the picture. The twists are all headed towards the inevitable, so what’s their point, anyway?
“Robbery” feels like a solid, promising first draft of a pretty good heist picture. A good agent could shop this one around, get the right aging star’s attention, and produce a remake that works. The generic, forgettable title is just one reason no one will remember “Robbery” after that happens.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Art Hindle, Jeremy Ferdman, Sera-Lys McArthur, Jennifer Dale and Tara Spencer-Nairn and Andy McQueen
Credits: Written and directed by Corey Stanton. An Indiecan Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:33