Review: How to Deter a Robber (Fantastic Fest 2020)

Title: How to Deter a Robber
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Marie Bissell
Starring: Vanessa Marano, Abbie Cobb, Leah Lewis
Runtime: 1 hr 25 mins

What It Is: After a night of partying in the neighbor’s abandoned house in the midst of a painful family winter getaway, Madison and her boyfriend are accused of robbery when they wake up to find the house disheveled. Determined to find the real culprits, they and her Uncle Andy come across a duo of severely amateur robbers and attempt in preventing them from getting away.

What We Think: I could see there being an audience for this film. I could say that for any movie but the fact that I do mention it now is just to cushion what I have to say going forward:

There were some really solid ideas here. It’s simple, there’s a great range of cast and characters. The cast themselves did well and the chemistry brought them to the same level of connection which is great. You could see what was being aimed for in this film, or what kind of movie was being insinuated rather, through the attempts at dynamic, fast-paced, Edgar-Wrightian editing, and visual setups. What sorely held it back were certain rough edges that you find in more amateur, student films. Luckily, these are easy to improve upon as with some tightening up and shaving down, the film would have been much more entertaining, effective, and even funny. Many a time I found myself actually enjoying a scene until it felt like it stuck around too long and ended up feeling more like a deleted scene than part of the movie as a whole. The humor is ridden too hard and relied on too much for what were just relatively quirky moments and characterization rather than actual jokes. The dialogue, mostly consisting of tired and grating fighting between the characters became annoying and repetitive to the point where I started to feel vicariously hostile myself. The action and meat of the film also take much too long to commence as the setup continues into the second act and we don’t get a solidification of the tone and direction of the film until then on, and from then on that action doesn’t really relieve much. Despite it acting like a crime-comedy / dark comedy sort of ordeal, it felt more like a skit from a short film.

Our Grade: C-, Concept is always more promising than delivery, and this delivery was just not it for me. I wasn’t having fun or laughing like what the film intended. Nonetheless with some fine-tuning in the post-production departments, perhaps this could be a much more funny and enjoyable “fuck-the-season” number for those much younger and much older than myself. Moving forward, I hope to see the filmmakers improve as there seemed to be a good lot of potential from the storytelling perspective as the script itself was something solid.