What makes Johann run—and rob? Benjamin Heisenberg's second feature is as taut, lean, and fleet as its title character, played by Andreas Lust and based on the real-life Johann Kastenberger, who was both Austria's most-wanted bank robber of the 1980s and a champion marathoner. Writing the script with Martin Prinz, who adapted his own 2005 novel about the notorious criminal, Heisenberg forgoes psychological explanation, structuring his film as a series of adrenaline spikes. Johann is already in motion—and marked as a lawbreaker—when The Robber begins, doing laps around a prison yard. Once released, he steals a car and dons the gray trench coat and rubber mask that will become his uniform as he sticks up bank after bank. When not stuffing wads of Euros into a black duffel bag, Johann is in training, building the speed and stamina needed to set a new national record in the Vienna marathon. Heisenberg paces his film like a strenuous yet exhilarating session of interval training; Johann's criminal activities and his sprinting from the polizei reach maximum cardiovascular exertion when he robs two banks within five minutes. Following these high-intensity bursts, the scenes of the kinetic antihero's physical conditioning become almost trancelike. Against interpretation, Heisenberg has nonetheless created a nimble character study of a fiercely guarded loner on the run.
Lusts felon never drops his mask.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., May 6–Thurs., May 12. Not rated. 97 minutes.