Short films matter. Vimeo wants you to know it. So do we. That’s why every week we’ll take a look at some of the short film world’s best and brightest. This week, we bring you Jim Cummings’ tragicomic heist flick The Robbery.
The Plot: Crystal needs $200 asap. So of course she’s gonna rob a liquor store.
The Film: One woman. One take. A lot of laughs. And maybe a couple of tears. This is The Robbery.
Why Press Play?
Comedy is fast becoming the lost genre of the feature film world. Not because there aren’t a lot of comedies being produced … there are. It’s mostly because a lot of them aren’t funny. Luckily, the short form world is rife with funny people making really funny movies. Jim Cummings is seeing to that personally.
You might recognize that name. We featured his Sundance 2016 winning short Thunder Road a few months back. Cummings has kept himself busy in the year since with a couple of acting gigs (the marvelous short film Us Funny and an appearance in the upcoming Hulu series The Handmaiden). He’s also been busy behind the camera, returning to Sundance this year with another dynamic comedy The Robbery.
His latest effort unfolds in real-time and tracks a drug-addicted woman named Crystal (Rae Gray) in her mission to raise $200 on the fly. That mission starts with an Uber ride and sidetracks into a liquor store heist. From there, well, let’s just say that things do not go according to plan. And that a crossbow is involved. I’ll stop there, so you can experience the madness for yourself.
While the insanity unfolds, you should note that the entire film occurs in one unedited take. I know, I know … a lot of short films have been taking the same approach of late. Few of them have used the tactic as effectively as The Robbery. The film’s single, nine-and-a-half minute take is more than just a stunning technical feat. As Crystal’s half-baked plan spins wildly out of control, the unedited approach adds a visceral energy to the action that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Tension arises from beat to beat. And so do the laughs.
As with Cummings’ Thunder Road, that has a lot to do with the screenplay. Cummings and Co-Writer Dustin Hahn craft a precise but kinetic tragic-comic tale with The Robbery. One that dabbles in the real-world absurdism and unexpected (often hilarious) bouts of violence. They underscore those themes with a profound human drama. From a narrative standpoint, the film should be a be an absolute mess. But Cummings & Co imbue the film with a remarkable sense of balance between dramatic tone and comedic whimsy. Those tonal shifts fluctuate from beat to beat with uncanny grace. The Robbery is always funny or unnerving or dramatic exactly when it needs to be.
At the center of every tonal shift is a fearless performance from Rae Gray. The relative newcomer has spent the past few years whiling away in bit parts for TV and Film. Nothing you might have seen from her has prepared you for what she brings to The Robbery. The film’s narrative requires her character to traverse almost the entirety of human emotion. With narrative shifts coming almost by the second, Gray is forced to shift with them. The gifted actress shifts from stoned elation to bewilderment, fear, heartbreak and utter defeat with uncommon agility. She does so without missing a comic moment or an emotional beat. Her performance is the glue that holds Cummings’ tricky little narrative together. And it makes The Robbery a must see short.
Meet The Crew:
Directed by: Jim Cummings Written by: Jim Cummings & Dustin Hahn Starring: Rae Gray & Waymond Lee Director of Photography: Lowell A. Meyer Sound Editor: Danny Madden
I hope you enjoy The Robbery! What else can we say about Jim Cummings? He’s spent the last few years proving himself on the festival circuit as a Writer, Producer, Director and Actor. And he’s only the second Director we’ve featured twice here in Cut Print Film’s short film corner. Learn his name and learn it now. You will be seeing on big screens in the future. Until then, you can see more of his work over at his Vimeo Page. While you’re kicking about, be sure to check out a few of the thousands of other short films – animated, live action and documentary – the Vimeo team have made available for your viewing pleasure (via desktop or mobile device – SWEET!). You’re sure to find something interesting and you may just stumble across the next great filmmaker.