Sean Price and Jimmy Winters are a two man stick-up crew, robbing criminals from Boston to Cape Cod. Sean wants out of the game, but it’s not so simple when a couple of killers are hunting them for retribution over a past robbery.
How to Rob is the latest crime drama that focuses more on character than the heist- what’s known as Boston noir. Here it is the stresses and strains that being a small time criminal has on two long term friends, the amoral Jimmy (Josh Koopman)- a white Boston born aspiring wise guy and his black friend with a conscience, Sean (Chinaza Uche) with aspirations of middle class success, marriage and moving away for a fresh start.
How to Rob counts on our recognizing crime drama cliches- working class heroes trapped in an environment with limited options, the local bar as the secret crime den central, brutal brotherhoods with mainly Italian heritages- so it can focus on the details of characters. The plot convention that sets everything up: Jimmy would do something stupid that would put their lives at risk and on the run from the mob.
Filmmaker Peter Horgan, who both wrote and directed, grew up in the Boston suburb How to Rob is set. He knows how to get the details of dialogue and character right.
Horgan is always making sure his sub characters have something funny or interesting to say. And they also are distinct. The audience has an easy time telling them apart. It is a job made easier by a solid cast full of under recognized character actors.
Joshua Koopman character is a little over pleased and way overconfident. His brashness and impulsiveness is dangerous. It contrasts well with Chinaza Unge, Sean- all quiet dignity.
Horgan stays mostly within the confines he knows. He is forever discovering tiny dramas that add interest and intensity. The variations on gangster speech are particularly impressive.
The few metaphysical touches Horgan adds, really don’t do too much. A psychic given too much screen time is basically regurgitated plot and character summary. It’s a distraction that could have been handled differently.
How to Rob is at its best when it’s focuses on the ruminations of men slamming down some Boston lagers, and talking about big dreams in decidedly small ways.
How to Rob gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime.
Becca E. Davis
Cranked Up Films
- January 20, 2023