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IFC presents

How to Rob a Bank (2007)

Jason: I want my twenty bucks. And safely out of here.
Simon: What we have here is a symbiotic relationship. You want out, and I want in. And in the spirit of negotiation, I'd like to see you dead. You'd like to leave alive. So, let's just meet in the middle.- (Nick Stahl, Gavin Rossdale)

Stars: Nick Stahl, Erika Christensen, Gavin Rossdale
Other Stars: Terry Crews, Leo Fitzpatrick, Adriano Aragon
Director: Andrews Jenkins

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:21m:24s
Release Date: 2008-09-02
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B C-


DVD Review

How To Rob A Bank is one of those low-budget heist titles that tries to do more with less, using clever camera angles and a mercurial timeline to help bolster the overall flimsiness of the story.

It's the creative dual debut of writer/director Andrews Jenkins, and it's largely a three location flick: inside a bank vault, inside the bank lobby, outside the front of the bank. To keep things lively, Jenkins employs a few nicely done shots to lend a quirky edge to it all, so that something mundane like a telephone conversation involves a little hipster visual creativity.

Jenkins start his story in the middle, as scruffy twentysomething Jason (Nick Stahl) is locked in a bank vault with a cute-but-cocky hostage Jessica (Erika Christensen). How he got there is revealed in dribs and drabs (unless you read the back cover), but it is safe to say ol' Jason has something of a Tyler Durden philosophy on the evilness of corporate surcharges. Simon (Gavin Rossdale of Bush) is a nattily-attired bank robber, stuck in the bank lobby between a SWAT team outside lead by Detective DeGepse (Terry Crews) and what is inside the now locked vault. There's secret PINs, some computer hacking and a mysterious mastermind as Jason and Jessica bicker and snipe with each other, as well as Simon, until eventually everything finally comes undone.

Jenkins works the back-and-forth dialogue of his characters admirably, and though it doesn't always seem like believable speak (the Terry Crews character is a bit too comic), the conversations are often peppered with neat little nuances. Not necessarily Tarantino-nuanced, but snappy enough. There's a terrific Duran Duran chunk between Jason and Jessica as the story unfolds, one that gets a nice payoff in the closing credits. But at least those two characters spend the entire film in the same room, so they can talk to one another face to face; poor Rossdale is left to mostly give his lines talking into a cell phone, swearing frequently and pacing around feverishly. Ditto for Crews as the exasperated cop in charge.

There's a weird, out-of-left-field cameo at the film's cloudy conclusion, and I wasn't entirely positive of what the meaning of the final shot actually meant, as it seems open to interpretation. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into things.

The journey there is fast-paced at just 81 minutes, and though there isn't all that much action along the way Jenkins does try to get all visually spiffy to make less seem like more.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: How To Rob A Bank comes from IFC in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. It's a rather soft print throughout, though colors and fleshtones (most notably during sequences inside the bank vault) have a bright, natural texture. Black levels are the weak link, as some darker moments tend to suffer from muddy edges and a more significant loss of detail. No major evidence of debris or blemishes were evident.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Only one audio choice, and it is offered in 5.1 surround. Not a reference disc, but certainly a measurably aggressive presentation, especially for a small budget title. The mix is noticeably full-bodied, featuring a prominent .LFE and a substantial use of rear channels, while voice clarity is never a concern, and the fronts carry a sense of movement and directionality.


Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Paranoid Park, Anamorph, The Killing Of John Lennon, The Last Winter, Flakes
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase in sl
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: If you're a slipcase fan, then the packaging here will please you; artwork, however, for both the slip and the inner case is identical. Extras are on the skimpy side, consisting of a block of assorted trailers and a pair of generic, fuzzy-and-nonanamorphic behind-the-scenes EPKs, entitled The Making Of How To Rob A Bank: The Story (04m:09s) and The Making Of How To Rob A Bank: The Characters (05m:59s).

The disc is cut into 16 chapters, with optional subs in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Perhaps not the be-all-end-all heist flick, but writer/director Andrews Jenkins oddball robbery tale is still a fair amount of fun, and one that uses enough glitzy visual tricks to help make it seem even more substantive.

Add it to your rental queue for those days when you have 80 minutes to spare and minimal expectations.

Rich Rosell 2008-09-02