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The only premiering Tribeca film initially viewable from Europe was, perhaps ironically, European. The Irish director, Thomas Hefferon, delivered ‘The Heist’ alongside his competing short film ‘Switch’. Hefferon has before been selected for the Festival competition with his short film ‘The Confession’ and had ‘The Pool’ premiere at Tribeca last year. The Heist had the privilege of serving as a global sneak peak for the online Tribeca audience just before the actual event kicked off.
The movie is a 9 minute short comedy shot mainly from the insides of a parked car. Three amateur bank-robbers are making a last run-through of their plan, but quickly realize that the robbing business is a complicated affair.
The leader is Francis, played by Sean Flanagan, whose feeble leading skills are seriously strained as he attempts to reason with the other two characters. It seems obvious that Francis is far from intelligent, but at least he stands out as the most sensible in the group. Nicky, the guy on the left played by Donal Gallery, reminds you of every skinny bloke with the backbone of an earthworm ever to be portrayed in modern cinema. He comes off as simpleminded; almost childish, with a distinct feminine inclination for sulking. However, he is not the one causing the most problems in the tiny vehicle; that would be Dave.
Like my boyfriend use to say; “there’s always a Dave.” In this case, Dave is a Neanderthal of a man, clearly failing to realize the seriousness of the act he is about to commit, and with a serious case of the munchies. Within the feature’s 9 minute time frame, Dave manages to fizzle the momentum for the gang repeatedly with his outrageous requests.
The movie got plenty of positive feedback in the comment section while it was still viewable. Those in favor found the ‘verbal slapstick’ – exaggerated idiocy exceeding the boundaries of common sense, highly entertaining, and enjoyed the failure of the gang to pull off a ‘proper’ heist. I personally have to join the haters. Though it is clearly meant as a lighthearted take on bank robbers, having watched movies such as The Town, nominated at this years Academy Awards, you probably have no problem imagining that being victimized in a robbery is no picnic. What bothers me, however, is neither the crime nor the pending human consequences – it’s the characters.
For a character-driven short film, this is a problem. Why the writer chose to make the characters as shallow as the bottom of a water bottle I don’t know, but the result left me with a strange feeling of defeat, and funny enough, recognition. First of all, even when we agree that the collected IQ of the car come closest to 150, it is hard for me to believe that empathy is a foreign country to men of their un-profession. On the other hand, if we agree to relinquish their moral scruples, surely they must have fears and doubts about their impending action. But this is left untouched, denying the introduction of interesting characters. Secondly, as a native Dane, I found the dialogue oddly familiar. Tar-black humor that relishes in illogical, yet conceivable problematics. My research confirms that the writer is a Dane named Troels Jacob Hundtofte, and my guess is that he’s no stranger to modern Danish action comedy. He seems, however, a stranger to the fact that direct adaptation often ruins the intension. Being stranded on the beaches of an average cast, the already hampered dialogue is left to fend for itself and ends up being forced and uncomfortable. Since Hefferon obviously has drawn inspiration from the work of British gangster prodigy, Guy Richie, The Heist ends up as the awkward child of two offbeat genres.
Overall, the story was tame and uninteresting and could have been dealt with in a 5-lined joke. My only thumps-up is for the technical achievements – the film is well shot, well editing and the setup itself works. But in the end, what was meant as comic relief didn’t move me beyond thinking that I could be doing something else with my day.