January 18, 2016

SCREEN | A 'Band of Robbers' Spins A Yarn

Adam Nee Kyle Gallne | Band of Robbers

Band of Robbers is most easily and superficially described as an indie comedy reimagining of the literary works of Mark Twain through the filmmaking style of Wes Anderson (think Bottle Rocket). Writers/directors Aaron and Adam Nee (Adam also stars) bring the dual Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (aged up to adulthood) to a contemporary setting in the mould of a quirky crime caper gone wrong.

Kyle Gallner plays a grown-up Finn (fresh out of prison) to Adam's doofus Sawyer (a bumbling street cop) while their band of slacker cohorts include Matthew Gray Gubler (Joe Harper) and Hannibal Buress (Ben Rogers) with Eric Christian Olsen as Tom's detective half-brother, Sid. Melissa Benoist is charismatic playing Sawyer's plucky new policewoman partner, Becky Thatcher. However, it's Stephen Lang who gives some depth to the film as a very haunting Injun Joe hunting down the titular robbers.

The Nees shape the classic American characters as stumbling screw-ups and criminals in search of hidden treasure. It's mostly a pleasant remixing of American literature and pop culture executed by a talented cast of misfits. They wisely dial up the weird sense of play in their retelling of Huck and Tom, never requiring the viewer to have any knowledge of Twain's work while peppering references and touches throughout.

Of the film's notable contributions, composer Joel P. West's original music sets a nice pace and rhythm in the story as it amplifies both the comedic and crime thriller elements in tandem avoiding any jarring shifts in tone. Cinematographer Noah Rosenthal also contributes a full colour palette key to enriching the whimsically heightened but still grounded environment the Nees build on screen.

It's a likeable enough conceit but fairly insubstantial while remaining a mostly enjoyable crime  film. Band of Robbers makes for an amusing enough entry into the world of Twain's characters adding their own twists of whimsy and absurdism.

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