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Saturday, August 3, 2013


Courtesy of Doppelgänger Releasing
2013, 75 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Havana Marking's entertaining documentary Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers is a  good watch, but is a bit of a mess.  The film tells the story of a group of diamond thieves who have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from locations all around the world.  They are all from the area that was formerly Yugoslavia.

The film is unique in that it actually has interviews with the thieves themselves.  Obviously they go by false names and are not shown, but their voices are heard, albeit in an altered state.  Everything not said by them was written by them for actors to read.  Animation compensates for the lack of facial images.  This is a very interesting storytelling device and one that works.  It makes the film feel like more than just a documentary and is quite beautiful.  The stories about the diamond heists are also illustrated by actual security camera video, which makes the stories come to life.  Between this and the animation, the stories pop.

That being said, I wish the film had more focus.  It focuses a lot of its running time on history of the former Yugoslavia.  This portion is very well-presented and interesting, but had it been cut down, it would have made the film much better.  It takes away from running time that could be devoted to details of the heists.  Those are the best sequences because the thieves tell the stories themselves.

I appreciate that director Havana Marking took the time to flesh out the characters of the thieves interviewed.  It makes them not as despicable and humanizes them, which is very admirable.

The score by Simon Russell has the quality of a classic heist film and helps keep the excitement going.  Additionally, I have to credit Marking for making a film that was absolutely never boring.  I enjoyed myself the entire time.  Was it as in depth as I would have hoped?  No.  But, I was never bored and that counts for something.

Overall, Smash and Grab is not a film that I would run to grab a ticket to, but is certainly something you could do a lot worse than on a Saturday afternoon.  If you like heist films, this will be for you.  I was thoroughly entertained, but not much else.  It didn't leave a lasting impression.


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