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A tough guy turned star. He did something others wouldn't dare. Always one step ahead of the cops and always downed a whiskey before robbing a bank. Growing up in a broken home Attila (Bence Szalay) was a troubled teenager, even spent time in a youth prison. Through a rather bizarre turn of events he escaped to Hungary from Transylvania. But his new life turned out to be much harder than the old one. He was the goal-keeper on a hockey team, but still had no money, no girlfriend; but then he found something that he's really good at. He was reckless, fast and meticulous. He started robbing post offices, banks, travel offices. The more he stole, the hungrier he got. Nothing was enough for himself and his new love (Piroska Móga). But his final job didn't go as planned and the determined investigator, (Zoltán Schneider) who's long been on his tail finally caught him and made him face the consequences. But the cop-robber game is far from over. A story of a fascinating life, full of amazing ... Written by
Nimród Antal's latest 'A Viszkis' is a thorough character study, a suspenseful crime thriller and a heartbreaking social commentary
'A Viszkis'/'The Whiskey Robber' is a biographical crime-thriller written and directed by Nimród Antal and stars Bence Szalay as the notorious 1990s folk hero of Hungary, Attila Ambrus, who committed 27 bank and post office robberies from 1993 to 1999 until his eventual capture. The estimated amount of money stolen is more than 100 million HUF (approx. half a million USD) at the time.
Nimród, who I am a huge fan of after first seeing his acclaimed existential thriller ('Kontroll'), establishes the atmosphere of this immaculate thrill-ride right in the opening tracking shot of Ambrus committing one of his robberies after a shot at the local bar. What the director does so well is achieving a rather heartfelt childhood backstory to this character thus providing a deeper understanding of the Robber's motive. He was an outcast, an underdog. Then he became an antihero. We could interpret this film in a way as a coming-of-age drama, or a deeply affecting tragedy, but eventually it is a highly compelling true story.
On one hand 'A Viszkis' is a thorough character study, a suspenseful crime thriller and a heartbreaking social commentary. For one, Bence Szalay's fully embodied central performance and screen presence is undeniable. The gripping robbery scenes, the well-choreographed action sequences and the aggressive, cynical humor might just very well please the popcorn audience, while the conventional non-linear narrative actually serves a thoughtful purpose of navigating between good and evil. Moreover the production design is pleasantly convincing, the visual effects are top-notch and the mesmerizing cinematography elevates the film from its true crime counterparts. (There is no denying of how gorgeously this film is shot, I can tell you.) Operating with clichés like raised in a broken home, immigration to an other country without papers OR money and telling a non-linear narrative after the capture could have come out terribly wrong in the context of the film. Nonetheless Nimród accomplishes the same sort of sympathy for the Robber as was (and has been) felt by many Hungarians back then, still he never indulges in glorifying his deeds. The popularity of this individual in the public eye is derived from the fact that many had financial difficulties after the fall of the communist block. The Robber was a symbol of daring to spit capitalism and the banking System in the face.
However Nimród has never been as much of a compelling writer as an outstanding director when it comes to storytelling. Despite achieving terrific visually aesthetic heights, the second half of the story drags a little leading to certain side characters' motivations not making much sense - meaning the character development of the detective and the love interest. By no means does the film become boring. There is a certain amount of investment in the protagonist established in the first half. On the other hand the second half loses some steam down the road despite its spectacular action sequences. For example in one particular scene the actual motivation of the Whisky Robber is explained to us which could have been cut out entirely since the film has already made that clear minutes ago. I believe some scenes could have been easily cut out to tighten the structure. But maybe I am just nitpicking.
In the end 'A Viszkis' is a masterpiece of a film. Flawed? Yes. But still an unforgettable cinematic experience owing to the fact that the filmmaking elevates the source material with exceptional energy, stunning action, confident and passionate direction and a powerhouse central performance.
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