Movie review of “Band of Robbers”: Contemporary heist film draws inspiration from Mark Twain. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
“Band of Robbers,” written and directed by Aaron and Adam Nee, gets points for a promising premise: It’s a crime comedy with a grown-up, modern-day Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer at its center. Huck (Kyle Gallner) is a just-released-from-jail, small-time hood, while his buddy Tom (Adam Nee) is a none-too-bright but nonetheless corrupt cop. The guys, now 30-ish, still have dreams, and Tom surprises Huck upon his release with one of them: How about they get the gang back together, plan a pawnshop heist and track down some long-lost treasure? As Huck notes in voice-over: “Some things never change, even when they probably should.”
The Nee brothers have a knack for low-key goofball banter and “Band of Robbers” finds a pleasant groove for its likably dopey characters for a while. Eventually, things start feeling a little slight, and the filmmakers don’t seem to know what to do with some of their cast members: Melissa Benoist’s role as Becky Thatcher (a judge’s daughter who’s trying out life as a cop) feels underwritten, and comedian Hannibal Buress, as accomplice Ben Rogers, has some funny moments, but drops out of the film for long periods. (He is, however, responsible for my biggest giggle while watching, when his character suddenly had to supply a fake name: “Greg … Knife.”)
But the fun here is in the details, designed to amuse anyone who has a nodding acquaintance with Twain — chapter headings, sly plot references to the source novels and winks to familiar characters. (Tom’s boss at the police station — whose name we only learn by reading the letters on her office door — is “Lieutenant A. Polly.”) The filmmakers have described “Band of Robbers” as fan fiction, and that feels about right: They don’t quite hit the mark, but it’s fun to watch them trying.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Band of Robbers,’ with Kyle Gallner, Adam Nee, Matthew Gray Gubler, Hannibal Buress, Melissa Benoist, Daniel Mora, Eric Christian Olsen, Stephen Lang. Written and directed by Aaron Nee and Adam Nee, based on characters created by Mark Twain. 95 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains strong language and some violence). Varsity.