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Daylight Robbery
cast: Geoff Bell, Paul Nicholls, Justin Salinger, Vas Blackwood, and Robert Boulter

writer and director: Paris Leonti

92 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Liberation DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
When I was a nipper, fresh into secondary school, I entered a competition in the Sunday Express to write a story about the 'first man on Mars'. This was right up my street as my favourite reading matter was science fiction, and my head was full of Heinlein and academies where rangy youths learned to become space pilots. I didn't win the competition. My story was full of details about training, climaxing with a sort of he'd-done-it-he-was-the-first-man-on-Mars type thing. The winner in my age group had a traumatised astronaut who'd had to forego a relationship, taking off his helmet on the Martian surface to smell the flowers that reminded him of his abandoned loved one. This taught me the difference between recounting a sequence of events and writing a story.

Daylight Robbery opens with a group of 'lads' sweet-talking an airline clerk into allowing them to book in for the flight that will take them to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and then go and watch Italy play Romania on TV in the pub before their flight is called. Cleverly this provides them with an alibi of sorts and buys them the time to go and rob a bank before making their escape to Europe. Cleverer still, Italy didn't play Romania in the 2006 World Cup as Romania didn't qualify. The perfect alibi!

In a nice twist the bank job goes wrong from the outset. Reversing their van through the façade of the bank one of the gang, Chubs (Paul Nicholls), is thrown out of the back window severing an artery in his leg. In lots of heist movies the setbacks occur after the job is done, so the dynamic in Daylight Robbery is altered somewhat. Tending to their friend, the gang are wrong-footed when a customer (Shaun Parkes, The Mummy Returns) picks up a shotgun and tries to blag his way out of the hostage situation. The standoff creates a frustrating indecisive moment that is quite realistic; sadly it doesn't add to the tension and only succeeds in slowing down the tempo of the film into a what-do-we-do-now situation. Director Paris (formerly Barry) Leonti says in the special features interviews that he wanted to go for realism, unfortunately while there is a noble tradition of heist movies that made a virtue of a minute attention to realistic detail this isn't one of those, and its solid, almost turgid depiction of the course of the robbery is devoid of drama or characterisation.

The gang are joined by their mastermind from the outside, Alex (Geoff Bell, Stardust), and the reason we have been introduced to one of the other customers held hostage is revealed when the gang make their escape through a tunnel. Norman (Justin Salinger, Velvet Goldmine), who plays out his time in the bank as if he is battling to contain incontinence, has a bout of claustrophobia during the escape, and when the tunnel collapses there is a suggestion that things might become a little bit more dramatic, but the mood passes and inertia is restored.

The gang catch their flight and then via a captioned few weeks later we hear on a radio that they were arrested in Germany when Chubby bled to death on the plane. More captions over footage let us know about what they got up to in prison.

The film possibly suffers for the lack of big names; interviewed in the special features, Johnny Harris (Atonement), who plays Terry looking like 'The Edge', says there are some great actors in the film, that is as maybe but if so they can do nothing with this script. There is more action and characterisation in an episode of The Bill. As these actors find the bulk of their employment in TV one can only assume that the different demands of filming a feature obscured the fact that what they were doing lacked pace and drama. Having finally raided the bank to release the hostages, Assistant Police Chief Rhys Meredith opines to his boss Shaun Williamson (Barry in EastEnders) that it is like the film Inside Man. But it isn't.

Director Leonti has attacked Guy Ritchie's 'plastic' gangster movies and others of that ilk as 'over-played' and 'exaggerated'. He is attempting to portray 'the real thing'. This is fine, but without drama or tension or characterisation we are left with the playing out of a sequence of events. There is no insight into motivation and there is no attempt to get us to care about the gang who end up coming across as a bunch of shouty boring opportunists slightly redeemed by a group loyalty. Chubby, the one character with a backstory - he has a four-month-old child, and his girlfriend would like him to give up football - spends most of the film comatose from blood loss. It is tempting to say we know the feeling.

The disc has more extras than the film merits. There's a behind-the-scenes/ making-of featurette, star interviews, a director interview, a trailer, deleted scenes, and an MP3 music track for use in a PC. Everyone in the interviews seems very pleased with themselves.

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