When Benny’s brother is arrested on suspicion of being involved with a series of recent bank robberies, Benny (Anthony Hansen) concocts a plan to save his brother jail time. Benny convinces his friends Erik (Johnny Scalco), Derek (Josh Roman), Jamie (Emilio Rossal), K.C. (Azmyth Kaminski) and Kyle (Scott Bailey) to help him rob a bank in a similar fashion to the robberies his brother has been arrested for, thus creating enough reasonable doubt to save his brother from any convictions.
Doug Maguire’s Bank Roll follows the activities of the small group of friends in the few days leading up to the big robbery, as they put various bank employees under surveillance in the hopes that, with enough information on the people and the right threats, they can rob the bank without needing to employ any muscle or violence, just psychological intimidation. So we spend time with the friends as they stake out the banks, various bank employee residences and/or go about their days.
And their time is mostly spent bullshitting with each other. The only consistent character there on (almost) every day is Jamie, and that’s because he’s tasked with surveillance. Everyone else comes and goes as their time, and role in the robbery, allows.
As far as a film goes, it has a great setup. The opening, as Benny recruits his friends and explains the plan and their roles in it, is extremely appealing, and it raises expectations of what is to come. The problem is that the film never matches the interest it raises in that opening, instead sticking with an entire film that is, narratively, just a first act.
Which makes for a pretty frustrating experience, as you wait and wait and wait for something to happen. Beyond conversations of varying interest, and some attempts at interpersonal drama that never really goes anywhere, the film seems to take almost ninety minutes to do what many a film would do in the first thirty minutes. By the time the credits hit, it reveals the film as entirely anticlimactic in every way it can be.
Now here’s the thing, you can make an idea like this work, but you need to fill it with more than just conversations and hollow character development that never has any payoff. If you’re going to make Erik someone who is getting increasingly upset and paranoid about everything, then there needs to be some sort of resolution for him, and the audience. Instead, it’s a film that hints at so much, but never delivers on any of it. Conflicts exist in this group of friends, and there are opportunities to do more with them than simply present that they’re there, and then move on. It seems like everything interesting about this film is happening outside of what we’re seeing or hearing.
Over any and everything else, it’s this overwhelming frustration that endures after the credits roll. Not the dialogue or the performances, or even the moments where the film does do something fun and innovative (such as treating one character’s inner monologue as if it were a film commentary by Al Pacino, albeit one that goes on for far too long). Again, it’s a film that ends right when it should be getting under way; little more than a long-winded Act One.
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