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ROBBERY: 3 ½ STARS. “unexpected twists and turns & compelling characters.”

Just because the movie has a generic title doesn’t mean it has a run-of-the-mill story. “Robbery,” a new crime film starring Jeremy Ferdman and Art Hindle, is, indeed, the story of a theft, but not just of goods. It’s also about how dementia robbed a man of his memories.

Ferdman plays Richie, a small-time crook with a big-time debt to a hard-nosed casino owner (Jennifer Dale). She means business. “Your sticky fingers,” she says to the thief, “I need to take them.” To raise the cash Richie needs to stop knocking off convenience stores and step up his game. To pull off the robberies he needs the help of his father Frank (Hindle) to teach him the ins-and-outs of a large-scale criminal operation. Frank spent five decades on the wrong side of the law but the clock is ticking. Frank has been diagnosed with dementia. Soon his years of underworld knowledge will disappear and with them Richie’s chances of getting out of the hole.

When recovering gambling addict Winona (Sera-Lys McArthur) offers to orchestrate an elaborate casino heist it tests the bonds of loyalty between father and son.

Writer and director Corey Stanton takes the been-there-done-that premise of a young thief and mentor pulling off a job to avert some very dire consequences and breathes new life into it by adding in unexpected twists and turns along with characters that, while flawed, are compelling. The finale amps up the melodrama but until then Stanton does a great job of laying out the puzzle pieces, building tension with good pacing and layers of tricky plotting. Most importantly Frank’s illness is never used as a gimmick or plot point. His dementia is part of the overarching plot devices used to fuel the narrative engine, and it pays off thematically and dramatically.

Stanton is aided by his actors. Ferdman and the supporting actors, including McArthur and Tara Spencer-Nairn, make the most of characters who live on the edge and yet bring humanity and interest to each of them. For my money, however, this is Hindle’s show. He has terrific chemistry with Ferdman and convincingly flips flops between hardened criminal and bewildered older man. If you don’t buy into the character of Frank you won’t buy into the movie but Hindle gives him dimension and even garners our sympathy.

“Robbery” has more heart than most heist films and more intrigue than most family dramas. It’s a tightrope walk but Stanton and his cast pull it off nicely.

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