The true tale of Austrian Johann Rettenberger, who lived a double life as a marathon runner and a bank robber. Directed by Benjamin Heisenberg, The Robber is based on a novel by the Austrian author Martin Prinz, and was shot on location in Vienna. The main character, Johann Rettenberger, is based on Austrian bank-robber and runner Johann Kastenberger. The film was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.
I don't watch foreign films that often, but yesterday I was browsing around in the video store and The Robber caught my eye.
The movie begins with Johann in an Austrian prison for none other than robbing banks. But immediately, you know his passion in life is running. He runs in the courtyard and on a treadmill inside his cell which was a gift from the warden. He seems to have behaved while in prison -- except for two prison escape attempts and soon his time to leave has come up.
While speaking with the parole officer, he claims he will get a job and not fall into his old ways and that he will report to regularly to this officer. But viewers will immediately sense that Johann is itching to get back to society for one thing and one thing only, more bank robbing.
When he gets out he lives in a very small apartment where he quickly becomes bored. Before long he's robbing banks with the use of a Ronald Reagan mask as if it is second nature. When he does it he is in complete control and you can tell it is a thrill for him. To be this alter ego behind the mask. It seems it is quite figurative. When he's just the runner he is a sort of a quiet man, but when he's the bank robber he's explosive, daring and outright unapologetic.
Ironically, Johann is always training -- even when robbing banks he never misses a chance to run. He uses a heart monitor to check his heart rate even after a robbery. It seems as though running is a type of metaphor. He runs from life; from his responsibilities, from the dullness of ordinary life. He puts himself into a marathon and ends up winning to the delight of the media wanting to know who this unknown man is.
But he never lets anyone know who he is until he meets Erika, with whom he begins a love affair. They live together, and this chance meeting will be Johann's undoing. Sadly, the romantic subplot is also the one weak part of the movie because it was abrupt and has no real impact on the story. Supposedly Erika and Johann already knew each other, but it isn't explored.
The robbery is where it's all at -- although Johann robs a lot of banks, he doesn't do much of anything with the money. It's not about the money apparently. The protagonist's parole officer is constantly hounding him about doing what he says to do, but Johann is having nothing of it. He's going to do what he wants to do no matter who it hurts. Robbery is how Johann rebels. And he's uncatchable.
Until Johann makes the mistake of robbing two banks within minutes. During a very long foot chase Johann realizes his now not just running for the thrill, but for his very life. Audiences will want to see Johann escape -- and he does -- but can escape his own addiction to the thrill? Erika finally starts to realize Johann is responsible and throws him out of her apartment. She tells him he has a choice, but Johann is too consumed.
Johann runs one more marathon and wins a trophy while his parole officer is wating. Johann just wants to walk away and be left alone, but the parole officer is lecturing him about if he doesn't comply he will go back to prison. Tired of his rant, Johann bludgeons him with his trophy and kills him in an alley.
He continues on his dangerous quest until the police find him because he never strays from routine. They have captured their fugitive and the menace to their society. But they don't have him for long because as he is being interviewed he sees his one and only chance. He jumps a desk, runs through a room and out the window dropping three stories upon car. And goes on the run of his lifetime. Thorugh the woods, neighborhoods and highways.
Johann steals a car from an old man who tries to escape, but Johann won't allow it. He flees to the open highway while a helicopter begins to follow him so he pulls over to a rest area, force a couple to trade clothes and cars then he is off again as many police pass him right up on the highway. He calls Erika and just wants her to stay on the phone. She tells him that she loves him.
As for whether he gets away or not, I won't spoil that. I'll leave that to when you watch it because I'm leaving out one small minor detail that would give it away if he does or not.
Overall this movie is an adrenaline rush, that will have you wanting him to get away as if you were right along with him. It was quite a different kind of heist movie that possibly not to many could get away with. It was well done. It leaves you breathless.