For a hip commercial and music-video director, Andrews Jenkins is oddly behind the curve and out of step in his feature directorial debut, subtitled And 10 Tips on How to Get Away With It. The problems start with his specious premise: that we are being relentlessly nickel-and-dimed by service surcharges.
Granted, it’s a bit hard to swallow that one has to pay to access his or her own money. But Jenkins centers his critique of this “crime of convenience” on the $1.50 charge to withdraw money from an ATM machine—which, of course, isn’t applied at every ATM, just those that aren’t operated by your own financial institution. Jenkins glosses over this detail while also complaining about cell-phone roaming fees (what wireless plan doesn’t blanket the majority of major markets these days?) and late fees on DVD rentals (likewise a thing of the past in this post-Netflix era).
When’s he’s charged $1.50 to withdraw his last $20, only to be told that because of the fee he now has insufficient funds, Jason “Jinx” Taylor (Nick Stahl) storms into his bank amid a robbery-in-progress. He runs for cover and ends up locked in the vault with seductive hired gun Jessica (Erika Christensen) and the computer at the center of the theft. Outside, cliché British villain Simon (Gavin Rossdale) tries to negotiate access to the vault while Officer Degepse (a cartoonish Terry Crews) manages the S.W.A.T. team surrounding the building.
Jenkins peppers this simple yet still fuzzy plot with banter whose potential for wit is sidelined by its delivery. Stahl is the most natural actor of the bunch, but Christensen has never convincingly inhabited any role, and the other players are little more than caricatures.
When the jokes are working—for example, Jessica explains to Jinx that freelance criminals connect via an online Duran Duran fan forum where they use the code “Hungry Like the Wolf” to set up bank robberies—Jenkins overplays them. The exchange goes on and on, with Jessica further revealing that Led Zeppelin is the preferred network for the CIA, until Jinx asks, “But why Duran Duran?” The bit ends with a lame “Why not?”
For heist flicks like How to Rob a Bank, the biggest sin one can commit is not staying at least one step ahead of the audience. But here the complications, especially in the third act (when the details of the larger plot—a scheme borrowed liberally from Office Space—are revealed) are either extremely unlikely (what bank vault doesn’t have a backup generator?) or predictably obvious and, although ponderously foreshadowed, ultimately resolved by dumb luck.
Distributor: IFC First Take
Cast: Nick Stahl, Erika Christensen, Gavin Rossdale, Terry Crews, Leo Fitzpatrick and David Carradine
Director/Screenwriter: Andrews Jenkins
Producers: Rick Lashbrook, Darby Parker, Arthur Sarkissian and Tim O’Hair
Genre: Crime thriller
Running time: 81 min.
Release date: February 6, 2008 NY