The title of Argentine director Pablo Fendrik’s debut gives the game away, though, to be fair, it’s only about ten minutes into The Mugger (El Asaltante) before it becomes apparent that Ramos (Arturo Goetz) is a holdup man. First seen purposefully prowling the halls of a Buenos Aires private school, Ramos secures an appointment with a female administrator under the pretense of discussing his young son’s potential enrollment. He then casually produces a pistol and announces the nature of his deception. Without having to pull the trigger or raise his voice he gets her to open her safe and hand over the money inside. He then makes a clean getaway, fleeing on public transportation before slipping unnoticed into the Buenos Aires streets to get a drink and make a few phone calls before heading to another school a few blocks away. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The notion of the gentleman thief—the dapper, crackerjack professional who abhors violence and knows every trick in the book because he helped write it—fairly drips with romance, so credit is due to Goetz (a New Argentine cinema standby who has worked with Daniel Burman and Lucrecia Martel) for his terse, neutral portrayal, and also to Fendrik for finding a fresh angle on a stock type.
Click here to read the rest of Adam Nayman’s review of The Mugger.