The Whiskey Bandit (2017)
January 12, 2024 8:07 AM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] Between 1993 and 1999, one man robbed 29 financial institutions in Budapest. Banks, post offices and even travel agencies fell victim to his crime spree. The police had no leads and no hope of finding him during his six-year stint. The only clue left behind at the crime scenes was the distinct aroma of whiskey. Never physically harming anyone, many began to eagerly follow his escapades through the media. A Transylvanian immigrant, who also happened to be a goalie for one of the city’s largest hockey teams, named Attila Ambrus, was finally identified as the “Whiskey Bandit.” The police had finally captured him… or so they thought.

Starring Bence Szalay, Piroska Móga, Zoltán Schneider, Björn Freiberg, Imre Csuja, Sándor Oszter.

Written and directed by Nimród Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy, Predators).

57% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Tubi. JustWatch.
posted by DirtyOldTown (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nimród Antal is an interesting guy that I don't think the world quite knows what to do with. He's distinctly Eastern European/Hungarian, but not at all an arthouse filmmaker. Were he the Hungarian Spielberg, probably people could handle that, find a place for him. But since he's more like the Hungarian Renny Harlin, he sort of toils away unnoticed.

If you watch US action/genre picks, you may have seen films like Armored or Predators and thought something like, "This wasn't the greatest script in the world," [note: he didn't write those] "But it was far better than it might have been." That's sort of the niche he has worked within in his time in Hollywood. He's gets hired to do lower end (but still wide release theatrical) films and he turns in the best possible versions of those time wasters as he can. He also directed several of the better episodes of Stranger Things.

With this movie, he goes back to Hungary, enlists a bunch of Hungarian stars, and makes a biopic of a famous bank robber who operated in Budapest. It's very very Hungarian. Even the scenes in Romania are in Transylvania and are distinctly Hungarian. But it's also fluid, energetic, fun, and well-made. Again, I do not want to oversell it. He's not Christopher Nolan or Edgar Wright. He's closer to John McTiernan or again, Renny Harlin. He's an action director who's got the goods, to a solid B level, better on his best days.

But I find his stuff very entertaining and it's nice to see how much fun he has when he lets his Magyar freak flag fly.

So, not a great movie. But a good one. And one that tells a historically interesting Hungarian story with American action movie energy, even if it still has corrupt bureaucrats and babushka-ed nagymamas pushing soup.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:17 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

"You robbed 16 banks in four years."

"No. I robbed 27 banks in six years."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:17 AM on January 12

Heist Club!
posted by infinitewindow at 8:57 AM on January 12

I read the book about this same person. It was a fun read and great story.
posted by Eddie Mars at 9:59 AM on January 13

The Hungarian National Film Fund had been given as a gift by Viktor Orban to his toady friend Andy Vajna, who promised big budget Hollywood boom-boom productions to replace the traditionally small budget indie Hungarian film world. They took a truly witty book about Ambrus Attila and turned it into a knock off of Die Hard with subtitles. The book remains one of the best and funniest depictions of the absurdities of life in Hungary in the years immediately following the change from communism... and in the film this is all replaced by car chases and shoot outs.

Ambrus Attila - the "Whiskey Robber" - was released and established himself as a potter. Check out his webstore!
posted by zaelic at 2:14 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

a knock off of Die Hard with subtitles

In what way? The plot isn't remotely similar. And if you're using it as a stand-in for Hollywood dreck... why? Die Hard is widely held as the platonic ideal of a Hollywood action movie that is actually well-made and character-based. It'd be like wanting to compare food to bad fast food and saying it was like the Popeye's chicken sandwich. It's literally famous as the exception to the rule.

Vajna had a mixed record as a human being. He established a TV station that he then handed to Orbán with a bow on it to cement his power and it's still making our cousins stupid.

However, since he took over in 2011, the Hungarian National Film Fund primarily has primarily made explicitly artistic films. It has 130 major award nominations since 2011. The Holocaust drama Son of Saul won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Their films play Sundance and Cannes.

As an action movie, A Viszkis was the exception not the rule. Vajna is dead now and his weird career (maker of wigs to the stars! producer of Total Recall! propagandist!) is over. It's was too weird and varied to try and make this one film emblematic of anything in particular though.

All of this said, I do absolutely believe you that the book was better. Antal isn't a great artist. He's an enjoyable craftsman of B movies. Someone like Renny Harlin, not at all someone like Béla Tarr.

I wish he would make more stuff like this and less stuff like that Liam Neeson movie with the bomb in the car last year.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:53 AM on January 15

« Older For All Mankind: Peristroika...   |  Podcast: The Adventure Zone: T... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments