Johann Rettenberger (Andreas Lust, his body whittled down to a lean web of muscle draped over bone) just wants to run. The Austrian marathon champ obsesses over his health, uses the latest gadgetry to keep track of his heart rate while running, and snarls at smokers in cafes. And when he's not running, he's doing the only other thing in his life that he seems to have any aptitude for: robbing banks. He doesn't rob for the money—that just piles up under his bed—and he doesn't run for the glory. He just wants to keep doing the two things he loves and is good at until he can't do either of them anymore. (The film could just as easily have been called The Runner.)
One of the greatest pleasures of The Robber (which is based on a true story) is its obfuscation. Every robbery is filmed in a different way, from behind counters and around corners, occasionally with all the action happening offscreen. And when Johann runs, his face is turned away from us more often than not. We never see the look of joy we expect when he's running a marathon, only grim determination. We have to wonder if, under the Ronald Reagan mask he wears during heists, maybe his face is split wide into an uncharacteristic grin. We certainly don't see happiness anywhere else, except possibly in Johann's burgeoning relationship with Erika, the woman who takes him in after his release from prison.
The Robber is decidedly European in its pacing, but the few chase scenes are exquisite in their energy. Like Johann himself, the action sequences are built to be marathon runners. Don't expect a series of quick, American-style cinematic jolts; when you sit down for The Robber, you're in for a long haul whose pleasures gradually build into a full-body glow.