A bank temporarily housed in a mobile home while a new building is built, looks like an easy target to break into. On the other hand, why not steal the whole bank, and rob it in a safer location.
"Who ever heard of a bank heist without guns?"
Madcap caper comedies are virtually a dime a dozen. At least once a year it seems like some director and intrepid screenwriter take a stab at breaking into a genre that is occupied by such great movies as 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.' To say that any attempt at mimicking those results is an uphill climb is a bit of an understatement, but still filmmakers give it their best try. Often times the results are a bit mixed, but every now and again a movie like Glower Champion's 'Bank Shot' comes around that is so thoroughly and completely entertaining that it manages to stand on its own two feet as a solid caper comedy.
Walter Upjohn Ballentine (George C. Scott) is serving a 20 years to life prison term with absolutely zero chance of breathing the intoxicating fresh air of freedom before he dies. He's okay with that. Even in the rough and tumble desert maximum security prison, he's managed to carve out a halfway decent existence for himself while being unde the ever watchful eye of prison Warden Streiger (Clifton James). Since there's a massive desert surrounding the prison the dream of escaping is far out of Walter's mind, that is until his "lawyer" Al Karp (Sorrell Books) comes to visit him with a honey of a bank heist offer.
Knowing there's no chance of escape, Walter lets his old friend prattle on about the details of the job, interrupting only to let him know his fake mustache is falling off. Then Al hits him with the goods, an escape plan! With a full detailed map in hand and a construction crew working just outside the prison, Walter has his chance to break free and pull off a peach of bank heist. After stealing a piece of heavy machinery and demolishing the prison camp, Walter manages to ditch the pursuing law enforcement goons being lead by the ever tenacious Warden Streiger. Once Walter makes it to the rendezvous point, he meets Eleonora (Joanna Cassidy) who just so happens to be the architect of this little scheme.
After making their way to L.A., Walter finally gets to see the mark. It turns out there is no actual bank, the real building is under construction. However on the opposite side of the street there happens to be a temporary location built into a mobile home. The place looks like the perfect hit, only it's location at a busy traffic intersection poses some problems. But then being the criminal genius that he is, Walter gets best idea of all time. If you can't rob the bank, why not steel the entire building? In order to pull off the greatest heist conceived, Walter is going to need help from a few friends like Al's son Victor (Bob Balaban), Hermann (Frank McRae), Mums (Bibi Osterwald) and her son Stosh (Don Calfa). Together they're not only going to have to steal the building, but they're also going to have to crack the vault inside all the while being hunted down buy the tenacious Warden Streiger.
Pretty much from frame one 'Bank Shot' lets the audience know that it is going to be a pretty entertaining 80 minutes. Part of what makes this movie so much fun is Clifton Jame's narration as an omnipotent Warden who frequently breaks the fourth wall alerting the audience to various goofy sight gags or story subtleties. Normally something like this would strike me as lazy, but in this case it works to accent the lunacy of the situation so that it feels comfortable. On top of that you have the great George C. Scott as the straight man in a film full of comedic performances. While the straight man is usually regulated to responding to the antics of his crack crew, Scott does get a chance or two to be genuinely funny. Part of that comes from his appearance with his ridiculously gigantic fake eyebrows. The man always had an expressive face, but some how those big bushy caterpillars make his exacerbated expressions makes everything that much more funny.
Given that this is a caper movie, I'm very reluctant to give specifics about the plot or any turns in the story. It would just spoil the fun. However, I will say the biggest laugh I had comes when Walter attempts to surrender to the police when he believes he's surrounded. The whole thing is one big sight gag and shows that director Glower Champion had a deft hand when it came to comedic intricacies. Lending a big help all around are the numerous performances. Clifton James is a riot unto himself, but seeing an insanely young Bob Balaban hone his signature deadpan tone and guys like Don Calfa and Frank McRae do what they do best makes 'Bank Shot' a real treat. Joanna Cassidy is also a lot of fun as the in-over-her-head Eleonora.
Fans of screwball comedies where the premise of the film is so completely over the top should have a great time with this one. The pace is rapid fire but doesn't move so fast that you feel like you're falling behind. It also is never so slow that you're ahead of the game. From one comedic set piece to the next, this movie is a thrill and a laugh a minute. This was one of those movies I'd heard of in passing and often saw sitting on a shelf at the video store I used to work at many years ago - but before now I never gave it the shot it deserved. I'm glad I did because I'm a fan and will be watching this one many more times.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Bank Shot' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line. Pressed on a Region A Locked BD25 disc, it comes housed in a standard Blu-ray case and opens directly to the main menu.
41 years have been very kind to this bright and colorful caper comedy. 'Bank Shot' gets a lively visual kick from its 2.35:1 1080p transfer. The sort of slight age related wear is present, but only in the form of a little bit of salt and pepper nicks - otherwise the print is in fine shape. With film grain intact, details are the source of much of the comedy here - from Scott's loony toons eyebrows to Don Calfa's mullet to Sorrell Books fake moustache - all of it comes with with fantastic clarity. Also spot on are colors. Perhaps a tad muted in places, that seems to be by intent as blues have a lot of pop and reds are strong and present without making the image look too pinked. Black levels and shadows are overall very strong but some crush creeps in during the scant few night shoots.
With a strong DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, 'Bank Shot' gets a lot of auditory life. Part of the fun of this movie is the busy sound design. Every scene is layered with sound effects, music by John Morris, and the characters' rampant dialogue. If the scene isn't populated with a lot of background sounds, the cast is throwing lines at each other at a rapid fire pace. Thankfully these elements don't really have to compete over each other and the voices - when necessary - come through with crystal clarity. Even with a lot of background atmosphere, I had no trouble keeping up with the dialogue. As much of the track keeps to the midranges, there are rarely any spikes or drop offs to cause any kind of distortion. Free of any age related hiss or breaks - this is a solid audio track that perfectly captures the madcap tone of the film.
Trailer: (HD 2:44) is the same trailer that was included with 'Cops and Robbers' it probably gives away a bit too much of the fun but sells the movie well enough.
Whenever I'm faced with a new madcap caper comedy I'm always a bit wary; its just such a hard genre to get right that when things go wrong, they can go really wrong and end up tragically unfunny. Thankfully 'Bank Shot' did not fall into that pitfall. With sharp comedic timing and a loony sense of humor I found this movie to be a new comedy favorite. Picture quality and audio are spot on and really bring the show home. If you're a fan of the flick, you'll love this disc, if you're new to it, give it a shot, this Blu-ray from Kino Lorber is easily recommended.