“HOW TO ROB A BANK” (2024) | Film Review

“HOW TO ROB A BANK” (2024) | Film Review

11. July 2024 Off By Thorsten Boose

Reference to Jackie Chan: none available

How to glorify criminals…

Using university equipment to make meth and sell it to the Hell’s Angels, flunking out of college before graduating, then building a multi-storey tree house and never actually working – that’s only possible in Seattle and is the stuff of a typical Netflix documentary.

In contrast to most fictional films, documentaries are based on true events. A documentary is therefore intended to fulfil the purpose of historical reappraisal of events using journalistic means. Maintaining an objective view is the most difficult endeavour for filmmakers and is rarely fully realistic.

The difference between a feature film and a documentary is therefore not that both tell a story with conflicts, but that a documentary must remain objective. If it is not, it serves a narrative. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, many Netflix documentaries have this problem. This is also the case with “HOW TO ROB A BANK” (2024).

It tells the story of the brazen bank robber SCOTT SCURLOCK, who was up to mischief in Seattle in the early 1990s. However, before we even get to know the main character, the filmmakers throw a whole host of supporting characters and background information at us that have nothing to do with the actual story.

ELLEN, the FBI agent in charge at the time, has her say right at the beginning. Admittedly an important character when it comes to a bank robbery story, because after all, someone has to catch the thug. But instead of dealing with the case, she focuses on the fact that she is a woman and has four children. And now? Male agents also have children, but her colleagues ignore this family background.

Sure, they want to play a woman in a leading position, who is also a mother, to the fore thanks to the women’s quota. But the fact that this is done so obviously and thus leads away from the actual purpose of the documentary is just annoying. The worst thing, however, is that the FBI agent doesn’t come off well in the liberal narrative that Netflix itself has built up:

  • Her investigation goes in the wrong direction from the start and her colleagues think differently about the case – correctly, as it later turns out.
  • It was only years later, according to ELLEN herself, that she realised that something finally had to happen. So her previous investigations have unfortunately not borne fruit.
  • She was the last to realise that Scott was on the scene of his last big robbery. During the chase, she is shown crouching in the back seat in drawn form and doesn’t even cover her colleagues with fire.
  • When the case is finally filed, she wonders whether she was the right person for the job.

Now, my derivation should not be seen as misogynistic. I’m simply concerned with the way documentaries are made and labelled by Netflix. If you introduce a hero in a story, then he or she should also act heroically, as a counterpoint to the villain. If he or she doesn’t do that, he or she may not be the hero.

And this is exactly what becomes clear in the course of the documentary, as in so many Netflix documentaries before it, in which there is a compulsive attempt to integrate pseudo-progressive elements of all so-called marginalised groups so that everyone feels represented. The heart of the matter usually falls by the wayside. So for me personally, these kinds of documentaries have become a kind of mockumentary. Because they virtually mock the journalistic genre of the documentary.

But on with the text. So, after we are initially framed with enough agenda, it is explained why Seattle in particular was a magnet for bank robberies in the 90s. Thanks to the nearby Silicon Valley, companies such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and companies like Starbucks expanded and had their funds managed in Seattle. The tech boom led to a growth in banks and consequently to more robberies. At the same time, there was a fight against the establishment, which found expression in the music genre grunge, which was founded in Seattle.

Netflix does it skilfully and makes us believe that the money in Seattle only belongs to the rich, who have enough of it. Shortly afterwards, we are finally introduced to the main character, bank robber Scott Scurlock, with whom we are now supposed to sympathise. He is even portrayed as Robin Hood, although his accomplice denies this in an interview; for him, he is someone who just wanted to live free. The first true words in the film, which bring to light the general hypocrisy of the left-wing hippies: Be free of possessions, but capitalise on other people.

Individualism serves here as a prime example and smear campaign against capitalism, as both are sides of the same coin. Watching the documentary, you realise that Scott Scurlock was perhaps not an evil genius, but rather highly intellectual and quickly underchallenged. Why else would he have dropped a stellar career as a doctor? He preferred to live his life adventurously, and he was allowed to do so. To the point where others suffer from his narcissism, because the money in Seattle’s banks largely belonged to the working population, who are not mentioned here at all.

So Scott lives in his self-built tree house and invites a mate to live with him after he has gone through a divorce and wants to break new ground as an artist. He becomes Scott’s accomplice in dozens of robberies and ends up wishing him dead. Wow, you don’t want to have friends like that. It’s almost as if the people in Scott’s life, be they family members or friends, don’t want to know who this person really is as long as he has enough money, gives it away and pretends that everything is fine. Newsflash: Most people are comfortable with lies.

Scott was called a “master of disinformation” by his sister as a child and at a certain point she thought he worked for the CIA. The entire wording of the documentary, such as “you could make a lot of money with the robberies” or “Scott made a lot with his money”, shows that an opinion is being spread here and criminals are being glorified as anti-heroes with all their faults. Society is to blame for their actions. Insinuation? His accomplice puts it like this at the end: “I was glad it was over and we were caught, I couldn’t do any more”. Yes, he could have made the decision to stop at any time. But liberals don’t like to do that, because moaning and shifting responsibility is more pleasant.

My words seem very harsh here, I realise that, but how should you evaluate a documentary that wants to impose an opinion, a narrative on you? It features criminals who spent 21 years in prison and are still proud of what they have achieved. One side is told. None of the victims, apart from a bank employee, get to speak at length. Not to mention the way the investigation was conducted.

It is and remains opinion-mongering, which is what the Mitliedsmasche does. You have to be aware of this when watching many Netflix documentaries. You don’t get the truth documented, but a true perspective retold. If that’s enough for you as a documentary, you’ll be well entertained here. If you want to read between the lines and recognise typical Netflix zeitgeist elements, you can treat yourself to entertainment on this level. Because “HOW TO ROB A BANK” is not technically poorly made. But the concept will soon be exhausted.

Oh yes, and to open up another meta-level, Netflix naturally chooses its stories in such a way that the arc to sleazy Hollywood can be drawn. That’s the nickname of the bank robber. The films “POINT BREAK” (1991) and “HEAT” (1995) are also quoted.

Typical 5.5 out of 10 stars

Original trailer | “HOW TO ROB A BANK” (2024)

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