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Robbery - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Lou Lap

Hong Kong 2015

Comedy, Thriller

Fire Lee

Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung
J. Arie
Lam Suet
Stanley Fung Shui-Fan
Philip Keung Ho-Man
Eric Kwok Wai-Leung
Anita Chui
Aaron Chow
Edward Ma Chi-Wai
Ken Lo

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Robbery - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Lau Kin-Ping (Derek Tsang) is 32 years old, still lives with his parents and has no prospects in life. He doesn't want to be at home anymore, but his buddies don't want anything to do with him either if he doesn't have any money. So, he decides to take a part-time job at a convenience store. But he just fools around at work and even starts to rub off on his colleague Mabel (J. Arie). His boss (Lam Suet) is not at all amused about that, but then he suddenly has an entirely different problem when one of his customers (Stanley Fung) shoves a pair of scissors into his neck because he was ripped off. The customer then decides to rob the store, but he is interrupted by a gangster boss (Eric Kwok) and his "girlfriend" (Anita Chui). Yan (Philip Keung), who also came into the store because he had a stomachache and wanted to use the toilet, can hardly believe what he sees. He is actually a policeman and quickly manages to bring the criminals under control. However, it turns out that Yan isn't quite the person he claims to be either. So, now he has everyone present under his control, and no one is allowed to leave. The night gets weirder and weirder as everyone's secrets gradually come to light. It soon becomes clear that only a few of those at the store will survive the night.

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Review: "Robbery" is a refreshingly different black comedy. It's one of those movies which you tune into late at night, keep watching completely puzzled until the end credits roll, and years later you start looking for the movie because you remember that it somehow gave you a good time. Fire Lee's comedy undoubtedly has its rough edges, but that's also one of its strengths. Be that as it may, the black humor is working quite nicely. It is extremely refreshing to get something different than just slapstick from Hong Kong, even though it may work sometimes too, for example in "One Night in Supermarket", a movie that "Robbery" somehow reminded me of, if only because of the parallels in terms of their settings. The script may be a bit chaotic, but thanks to great acting it always maintains something like a common thread and you stay interested in the characters. In addition, you never have any clue what might happen next.

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The great appeal of this flick is certainly that it's kind of reminiscent of a stage play, because almost the entire movie takes place at the convenience store. Due to the confined space - although the shop is actually surprisingly big - the characters are always forced to interact with each other; of course, the fact that they are being held hostage also contributes to this. In addition, the individuals are also good for some nice surprises. As soon as you think you might get an idea of what a character is like, you are immediately proven wrong again. Everyone has a secret, and even though it may sometimes be quite absurd and possibly even insignificant, it still ensures that the gun changes hands more than once. And if you thought that most characters would make it out of the store alive, you will be surprised how brutal and ruthless "Robbery" can be. The contrast between death and comedy may not appeal to everyone, but with that it's clear right from the start that we are dealing with a black comedy here.

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The humor is working and mostly lives off of the fact that the actors manage to carry their scenes quite nicely. The movie may not be a big Hong Kong production, but the actors featured are well-known for their supporting roles, and you couldn't imagine any HK flick without them. There's Philip Keung ("A Witness Out of the Blue"), who often upstages the others by playing a madman with his very own pecularities. Then there's Lam Suet, who is well known since forever, especially because of his appearances in Johnnie To classics such as "The Mission". Derek Tsang ("On the Edge") manages to carry the movie quite well by portraying a loser without any perspective, but the focus is more on him at the beginning and the end of the flick. In between, he is often outshined by the rest of the cast. But generally, it's just fun to watch the actors do their thing.

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You might think that the movie will run out of steam after the first half hour, because what else could possibly happen? But you would be seriously mistaken. Whenever you think things can't get any weirder, something new happens, for example, someone storms out of a room behind the refrigerators covered in blood, causing completely new developments. There is not just one villain in "Robbery", as we slowly realize that each of the hostages could become a perpetrator at any time. But since we at least have Lau and the somewhat nave-comic-like Mabel as anchors, we gladly join in on this rollercoaster ride. With just over 90 minutes, the movie is also pleasantly short and never tries to drag out scenes. As already mentioned, the script doesn't just deserve praise, though, because there is undoubtedly a certain karma-like chaos factor holding everything together. But that's also exactly the movie's intention and what makes it so refreshing.

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The end offers a nice resolution that puts everything in a new perspective. This may be frustrating for some, as by doing so the movie is also raised to a meta level instead of just being plain fun, but at least you are released into the end credits with more of an unexpected, pleasant feeling. Even though there is a certain constructedness to it, the nihilistic tone is still working, and the story can even be understood as social commentary. When it comes to the latter, however, you might be bothered by the unpolished nature of the flick. "Robbery" is best when the director and the actors just have fun and let us join in. Even if it means just watching Lam Suet having a pair of scissors stuck in his neck for almost the entire movie. If you like black humor and a little stage-like chaos, you will get your money's worth with "Robbery".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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