The aging thief trope gets another workout in Corey Stanton’s debut feature, Robbery, a modest CanCon crime drama that initially premiered one year ago at Toronto After Dark. This time, however, the thief in question is played by Canadian screen legend Art Hindle in what’s probably his most substantial role in years.
Hindle is Frank, an ex-con experiencing the rapidly oncoming effects of dementia, who is introduced in the opening scene as he sits in a doctor’s office and shakily takes a memory test. As Frank begins to fail the simple word recollection games, Hindle lets his acting chops shine, sliding from jovial warm-heartedness to outbursts of frustrated rage to resigned sadness over his waning mental state. Right away, the star of ‘70s CanCon classics like Face Off and Black Christmas flashes that charismatic glint in his eyes that hooks you.
The only family member Frank has to lean on is his son, Richie (Jeremy Ferdman, doing a pretty spot-on Jesse Pinkman impression), and their relationship is shaky to say the least. Abandoned to survive on his own when Frank went to prison, Richie turned to gambling, steadily accruing large debts to the mob-run casino that fuels the economy of his middle-of-nowhere Ontario town. He agrees to take care of his father for one reason – to learn his tips of the trade so that he can pull off some heists of his own, a desperate scheme to make the money back and pay off his debts to the ever-encroaching gang enforcers that are stalking him. And for a while, it all goes well, as Richie starts to steal from the rich homes in the area, accruing some wealth for the first time in his life and even beginning a relationship with a young Indigenous woman named Winona (Sera-Lys McArthur) that he meets at an addicts group and who bartends at the casino. But as all best laid plans do, they just as quickly come awry, landing him in even hotter waters with the vicious local mob boss, Roxanne (Jennifer Dale).
While Art Hindle is always great, Robbery fails to live up to his presence, which can probably be said for most of the projects Art Hindle is attached to these days. Stanton’s film isn’t sure whether it wants to be a hard crime thriller or a sentimental father-son bonding movie and, unlike something like The Place Beyond the Pines, it’s not dynamic or convincing enough to work as both. Apart from Hindle, the performances are iffy at best, with the actors not being helped much by the stilted and didactic dialogue. And while it’s shot nicely by cinematographer Jack Yan Chen, the visual flow keeps getting hampered by odd editing choices, chief among them an absurd amount of fade-to-blacks throughout.
Storywise, Stanton does manage to throw a few clever twists and turns our way but Robbery really falls apart in the third act, when the chief titular act takes place. It’s here that the film throws any notions of logic or realism out the door, with a contrived climax that frankly doesn’t make any sense at all.
I mean, if you’re just going to call your movie Robbery, it’s probably important to get said robbery right. Right?