Robbing Mussolini fails to deliver against its intriguing premise with a weak script and underwritten characters. Fundamentally, however, it commits the greatest sin a heist movie can. It is totally devoid of tension.
Another World War Two Drama – we review the Netflix film Robbing Mussolini, which does not contain spoilers.
Pietro, or Isola as he likes to be known, is a thief operating in the Black Market during the closing days of World War Two in Mussolini’s Italy. Pietro and his crew discover that Mussolini and his closest allies have plans to escape Italy for Switzerland and intend to take with them the enormous amount of treasure they amassed in the 20 years of Il Duce’s reign. Always with an eye for a score, Pietro resolves to steal that treasure from the Black Zone, the infamously heavily guarded area of the city.
It’s a pretty intriguing premise that sets up the tale of a daring heist carried out by lovable characters, and indeed, it seems as though that is what they were going for here. Based on a true story this could have been a brilliantly entertaining romp but sadly, Robbing Mussolini relies much too heavily on heist movie tropes and seems to largely be going through the motions, failing to really make a lasting impression.
As far as I could discern, the two main issues for Robbing Mussolini come down to character and plot (two pretty big things to not be working!) With the exception of Pietro, the lead, who is permitted a tiny bit of depth, all the characters are there to perform their job in the heist and no more. We get no insight whatsoever into their inner lives or motivations for being part of the crew, simply that they are there because they are a good getaway driver, or an explosives expert, etc, the whole character can be distilled into their role in the crew. In fact, when I was writing up the Robbing Mussolini ending explained piece to accompany this review, I had to use placeholders for the characters such as ‘Car Guy’, and ‘Thief Girl’ and then check the credits for their names; that is how forgettable the characters are.
With regard to the plot, the main narrative arc runs more or less as you would expect; however, everything attached to it is a complete mess. The film ends with so many loose ends and unanswered questions that it starts to get silly. For example, the first three-quarters of the film sets up the villain and is presumably leading to a showdown between him and our hero; however, in an attempt at a twist, the villain Borsalino is simply done away with in a flashback sequence so brief you could easily miss it. Most of the set pieces feel totally improbable, and many of the action scenes are so judderingly edited that it’s actually quite hard to follow what is going on and who is and isn’t alive at the end of it.
What this movie has got going for it is pace; it moves so quickly through its gears that you may not have time to pause and notice just how baggy much of the story is. Some of the actors are putting in decent performances with poor material and are generally pretty likable for the duration of its 100-minute runtime.
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