Attila Ambrus achieved folk hero status in Budapest during the 90's. He had come to Hungary from Romania having grown up in Transylvania. He played goal for the local hockey team and also served as team maintenance man. He drove the Zamboni, swept the floors in the arena and changed light bulbs. The pay was little, and although he was given an apartment, he was still in the country illegally and needed money to properly take out his new girlfriend Kata (Piroska Moga). With little options, he happened to find himself across from a post office one day spotting an official with a series of keys on chains going into the building. An idea hatched he did his first robbery quickly finding he was very good at it and in his mind so good that no one ever got hurt.
From an opening sequence of Attila intensely portrayed by Bence Szalay downing a whiskey in a bar before heading across the street to commit a robbery, the narrative shifts back to Attila as a youth in Transylvania being dragged by his ear back to the home of his grandmother. The priest incensed at his latest and last transgression. He had eaten all of the wafers on top of an earlier incident where he drank all of the communion wine. Attila was banned from church over his grandmothers' protests. His misguided youth continued leading him to youth prison where he fostered a healthy hate for Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu that continues even when he ended up in the army before his escape to Hungary.
Director Nimrod Antal chose to tell the story as a conversation between Ambrus and a detective the extremely crusty Zoltan Schneider recounting the events from the formers' point of view. Antal chose this format likely because this is how he learned of the story from the subject himself. Zoltan Kovacs' editing of the opening sequences, robberies and particularly the two main action segments is especially crisp. Antal's shooting choices stand out throughout especially in one series of shots showing an unusual way to hop a train and another where Ambrus retreats to a rooftop across the street from a just-completed job as the police roll up below. The camera circles the protagonist as he leans out from the parking structure with a bird's eye view of the scene that he created below.
The Whiskey Bandit is a speeding locomotive from the first frame on screen. It follows an anti-hero that becomes a media darling although he is working on the wrong side of the law. Ambrus declared at the time of the events that he never hurt anyone in all of the jobs that he pulled. But he blinded himself to the terror that he inflicted on tellers, bank managers, security guards that he often mocked plus the general public face down on the floor not knowing if a bullet may come his way. He got his moniker from a local journalist who also rose in popularity due to his reporting of the incidents. Witness reported that he smelled of alcohol (vodka) at the robberies. The reported said on air that we'll call him the Whiskey Bandit leading Ambrus to immediately switch from vodka to whiskey. The pair were linked again when the reporters show moved to Monday nights. A plea to move the next robbery to Monday afternoon for content to the show was heard and executed.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
The Whiskey Bandit | Nimrod Antal | Hungary | 2017 | 126 Minutes.
Tags: Bank Robber, Wig, Toy Gun, Getaway, Car Chase, Motorcycle Chase, Post Office, Hockey, Prison Escape, Ceramics.