Hollywood seeks to make bank robbers cool again (maybe even with Andrew Garfield?)


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Bank-robbery films are a staple of great cinema. Unfortunately, unless you count “The Town” or “Inside Man,” the best of the lot -- “Bonnie & Clyde,’ “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ etc. -- were made about 50 years ago. But two new films gaining heat in Hollywood seek to revitalize the genre.

‘The Robber,’ a remake of a well-regarded German movie about a marathon runner who robs banks for sport, has a degree of development momentum at studio Sony. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ star Andrew Garfield has watched the original and expressed interest in playing the lead part, said a person familiar with the project who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. (‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ producer Laura Ziskin is also producing the ‘Robber’ remake.)


An existential inquiry as much as an action movie, Benjamin Heisenberg’s original, which is based on the true story of the German bank robber Johann Rettenberger, avoids a lot of personal detail in favor of a more mysterious character approach. Filmmakers on the American version -- producers are currently seeking writers -- would likely add a degree of of backstory to make the film more palatable to a mainstream American audience, said the person familiar with the project. A Sony spokesman declined comment.

Meanwhile, the producer of “Blue Valentine” is taking a crack at ‘Electric Slide,’ a long-developed movie about Los Angeles’ so-called gentleman bank robber Eddie Dodson. In the 1980s, Dodson robbed banks all over Southern California to support his trendy Melrose Avenue shop as well as a growing drug habit. But he never shot anyone and, in fact, used a fake gun as he committed his robberies. (Dodson died in 2003; read more about bank robber Dodson here.)

Ewan McGregor is attached to play the bank robber. (Carey Mulligan was at one point playing the female lead but is now off the film.) Many producers have had mixed results trying to get the project going. But the ‘Valentine’ producer, Jamie Patricof, who also made ‘Half Nelson,’ has a history of getting challenging films to the screen. Writer-director Tristan Patterson is set to turn in a new script in the next few weeks.

Bank robbers who have a code of honor -- or at least strange methods and motives -- aren’t new in moviedom. Two years ago, Michael Mann took on the peculiar case of John Dillinger in ‘Public Enemies.’ But that movie became less of a heist story in favor of something else (a manhunt story, mainly). Ditto for ‘The Town,’ which had a significant romance element. And ‘Inside Man’ was a hostage story as much as anything else.

These new films, say those familiar with them, look to get back to the basics of bank robbery.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Ben Affleck fought cliches with the Town

Eddie Dodson: Robbery Notes

Public enemies No. 1 (in historical accuracy)