Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers

Good subject, bad handling.

July 31, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1381998-Smash_Grab_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Jewel thieves, from Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins in Trouble in Paradise to Marlene Dietrich in Desire to Melina Mercouri and her gang in Topkapi, have long been a favorite movie subject. Havana Marking’s documentary Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers purports to be a true-life detailing of such felons, but is far less engaging, And due to certain directorial choices, it also comes across as somewhat factually dubious.

About 30 years ago, when the former Yugoslavia was being dissolved due to ethnic tension and the death of President Tito, there was a parallel rise in crime (as well as independence) during this free-for-all period. The Pink Panthers emerged with high-profile heists which spread beyond their homeland to Europe, Japan and the Middle East (in a particularly brazen $15 million job in Dubai). Their methods could often be the most audacious imaginable; they even resorted to driving cars into luxury malls and through windows to get their loot. Although international police forces were bent on capturing them and tightening their net, these never-arrested Panthers enjoyed certain perks, as when a former Yugoslavian security official admits that he provided them with passports and aided them across borders so they wouldn’t steal in their own country, where, additionally, they would spend their ill-gotten gains.

It’s pretty fascinating stuff, what movies were made for, and Marking uses actual surveillance footage of the thieves which provide the most interesting moments. Unfortunately, although she scored interviews with actual Panther members, she chose to use some rather cheesy actors—who look like they hailed from a Balkan Central Casting call—to impersonate them, mouthing their words, and further botches things by throwing some particularly unappetizing very-1980s animation over their faces and surroundings which causes instant viewer recoil. Although the identity of these still unapprehended criminals, perforce, needed to be protected, the line between fact and auteurial license begins to seem literally blurred.

It’s funny how these real-life characters fall so strictly into movie cliché, ranging from the Catherine Zeta Jones-like temptress, the only woman in the crew, who literally seduces men in a variety of disguises to gain gem access, to the badass, been-there/seen-everything macho man with his mordantly studied account of events. Then there’s that ineffectual, hugely mustachioed Dubai police official—very Peter Sellers in ethnic mode—in a uniform so comically over-the-top with its gilded epaulettes and trimmings. These robbers liken themselves somehow to the exploits of Robin Hood, but in the awkward hands of Marking, the allusion is very fuzzy indeed.


Film Review: Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers

Good subject, bad handling.

July 31, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1381998-Smash_Grab_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Jewel thieves, from Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins in Trouble in Paradise to Marlene Dietrich in Desire to Melina Mercouri and her gang in Topkapi, have long been a favorite movie subject. Havana Marking’s documentary Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers purports to be a true-life detailing of such felons, but is far less engaging, And due to certain directorial choices, it also comes across as somewhat factually dubious.

About 30 years ago, when the former Yugoslavia was being dissolved due to ethnic tension and the death of President Tito, there was a parallel rise in crime (as well as independence) during this free-for-all period. The Pink Panthers emerged with high-profile heists which spread beyond their homeland to Europe, Japan and the Middle East (in a particularly brazen $15 million job in Dubai). Their methods could often be the most audacious imaginable; they even resorted to driving cars into luxury malls and through windows to get their loot. Although international police forces were bent on capturing them and tightening their net, these never-arrested Panthers enjoyed certain perks, as when a former Yugoslavian security official admits that he provided them with passports and aided them across borders so they wouldn’t steal in their own country, where, additionally, they would spend their ill-gotten gains.

It’s pretty fascinating stuff, what movies were made for, and Marking uses actual surveillance footage of the thieves which provide the most interesting moments. Unfortunately, although she scored interviews with actual Panther members, she chose to use some rather cheesy actors—who look like they hailed from a Balkan Central Casting call—to impersonate them, mouthing their words, and further botches things by throwing some particularly unappetizing very-1980s animation over their faces and surroundings which causes instant viewer recoil. Although the identity of these still unapprehended criminals, perforce, needed to be protected, the line between fact and auteurial license begins to seem literally blurred.

It’s funny how these real-life characters fall so strictly into movie cliché, ranging from the Catherine Zeta Jones-like temptress, the only woman in the crew, who literally seduces men in a variety of disguises to gain gem access, to the badass, been-there/seen-everything macho man with his mordantly studied account of events. Then there’s that ineffectual, hugely mustachioed Dubai police official—very Peter Sellers in ethnic mode—in a uniform so comically over-the-top with its gilded epaulettes and trimmings. These robbers liken themselves somehow to the exploits of Robin Hood, but in the awkward hands of Marking, the allusion is very fuzzy indeed.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Bicycling with Moliere
Film Review: Bicycling with Moliere

This sly, witty, charming comedic contemporary study of a fraught friendship between two actors hoping to mount a Molière classic is also a ride through France’s beautiful Ile de Ré island. More »

Locke
Film Review: Locke

Taut, disturbing and unique drama about a man racing toward his destiny, providing Tom Hardy, literally, with a vehicle to flaunt his acting chops. More »

Small Time
Film Review: Small Time

You might not buy a used car from the guys in Small Time, but you will enjoy the movie about their exploits, even their exploitations (of others). More »

Fading Gigolo
Film Review: Fading Gigolo

Some top screen talent gets lost in the silliness surrounding the amorous adventures of an unlikely gigolo and his even more unlikely pimp, with writer/director/actor John Turturro the shtupper “ho” co-starring with Woody Allen as the mercenary shtup-enabler. Yarmulkes off to Turturro’s brave but deeply ill-conceived comedic foray into Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community and other alien territory. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here