2007 SXSW NARRATIVE COMPETITION FEATURE! Max Solomon (Spencer Berger) isn’t much of a writer. In fact, at the debut of his latest effort, his grandfather suffers a massive heart attack and has to be rushed to the hospital. Two weeks of soul searching later, Max is pondering giving up the writing thing altogether when an off-the-cuff remark by his slacker friend Tom (Brian Phelan) sends him across the street to rob a local bank. The heist goes off without a hitch, as Max discovers that not only does he have a knack for thievery, he also enjoys the hell out of it.
Most of Max’s friends find his sudden change in career path and demeanor pretty groovy, except for uptight David (Gabriel Tigerman), who insists on giving the money back. Time passes quickly, however, and Max’s newfound love of larceny only picks up steam, even as he improbably finds himself romancing the very bank teller (Kerry Knuppe) he robbed of some $50,000 earlier that day. Before we know it, Max is in danger of getting in over his head and changing the lives of his friends forever, and not necessarily for the better.
“Skills Like This” is not a movie that asks to be taken seriously. The debut from director Monty Miranda and Berger, who wrote the script in addition to playing the role of Max, is an off-kilter romantic comedy. Nobody really believes a bank teller would end up sleeping with the guy who robbed her that morning and then leave him unattended in her apartment all day, or that a guy with an afro bigger than Wayne Kramer’s would be getting any action at all in this millennium. It works here, however, thanks largely to the strength of Berger’s performance and the way the movie’s familiar “follow your heart” message is diluted by a goofy subplot involving David trying to help Tom find gainful employment.