As one who enjoys documentaries, mockumentaries, and movies/shows that fall somewhere in between, I must confess that I’m growing weary of the trend of the fictional movie shot as a documentary. What was once new and exciting is now commonplace. It happens. However, the problem with this trend is that it breeds sloppy film making. The built-in excuse is that the lo-fi picture and sound, the slacker acting, lacking screenplays, etc. are all part of keeping it real. After all, this isn’t another movie, this is a documentary – wink, wink.
I had the disadvantage of seeing Street Thief five years after it was originally released. In between 2006 and now, I’ve seen more than a few documentary, found footage style fictional films. The newness of that approach to fiction films has worn off. Had I seen Street Thief closer to when it was released rather than discovering it on Netflix streaming five years later, I probably would have enjoyed it more.
The story is straight forward. A documentary filmmaker connects with a professional thief, Kaspar Karr (Malik Bader). The film wastes no time showing Karr in action as he robs a grocery store. From there we get to know the man a little, though he’s guarded and suspicious of the filmmaker’s motives. Karr takes us through the ins and outs of various robberies. He shares little tips along the way as he cases his next target. Setting aside disbelief that any great thief (as Karr claims to be) would allow someone to film him in this manner, the insights into the strategy and tactics used hold interest. In between all the action are cuts to interviews with a professional thief in prison. These scenes provide a good contrast between Karr’s arrogant, I’m not your average criminal and the sage advice of someone who thought he was just that but finds himself in prison anyway.
Around the half way mark a seemingly straightforward robbery goes awry. We’re not told why and then Karr disappears for two months. Finally, out of nowhere, Karr reappears and gets back in touch with the filmmaker, though never explaining why he disappeared or what exactly happened during the robbery of the night club two months ago. The next target is a movie theater. It is clear by the amount of careful planning Karr puts into this job that we’re seeing a new level of thievery. Again, setting aside disbelief that a thief would go to such great lengths to plan this perfect heist yet allow it all to be filmed as a documentary, the setup and execution hold interest, though the low fidelity film making becomes aggravating. This more significant robbery demands better camera work. But that’s a big down side to this sub-genre. In order to keep things real one can never break away from run and gun filming.
The rest of the movie plays out with some twists which are definite spoilers. The ending felt long and forced mainly because the disbelief the movie required throughout was impossible to hold all the way to the end.
Street Thief succeeds more than it fails. Malik Bader as Kaspar Carr carries the film well. The contrast of Carr with interviews of a similar criminal in prison worked. The details revealed before, during and after each robbery were engaging. All this outweighs the shortcomings of the format (fictional documentary) of the film.