Prepare for an exercise in crime documentaries like no other.
Smash & Grab: The Story Of The Pink Panthers is soon to be released in the UK. The incredible Havana Marking crime documentary follows the exploits of international jewel thieving gang, The Pink Panthers as they commit over 300 robberies over 10 years, stealing nearly £300 million worth of precious gems.
The film compiles CCTV footage from various heists and also includes interviews with crime-stopping experts and the thieves themselves, keeping identities strictly under wraps. Tomislav Tom Benzon (In The Land Of Milk And Honey) takes on the role as Mike, an unbeatable safecracker who talks candidly about his experiences as part of the Panthers.
We see Lena (Jasmin Topalusic), a mole who's high-pressure job it is to record the layout of each store and warn her co-criminals about potential snags. Though many Panthers have been imprisoned, the gang are still at large their success is attributed to their international work.
Through Marking's breath-taking footage and breakneck scenes of armed robbery, we are given a sense of the gang's ingenuity and ability to think fast and adapt to tricky situations. It soon emerges that there are over 200 individuals in the network, rather than the close-knit gang the media portrays.
But won't turning the Panthers story into a slickly designed, visually engaging movie glamourise the law-breaking and violence that has potentially ruined lives? One interviewed participant in the trailer can be heard warning: "They may seem like Robin Hood, but these are bad guys with guns." Variety praises Marking's take on the controversial subject matter, writing "Marking does an admirable job of ceding centerstage to the Panthers without letting the film turn soft or letting her subjects turn themselves into latter-day Robin Hoods."
The Guardian poses the question "Could the Panthers be a flamboyantly acquisitional manifestation of the mob mentality that swept through the Balkans after communism fell?" and reviews that "The casefile remains open, but this considered investigation matches the Panthers' bravura with an organisational flair of its own."
Marking makes sure to place the criminals within a socio-historical context, to give them a background and motivational drives. With origins mainly in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, the Balkan wars of the early 1990s would have had a shaping effect on the individuals and their propensity for crime, the film argues.
Where the film lacks footage, animated clips are inserted to build up a picture of the shady, underground crime world the Panthers inhabit and how they go about picking locks, cracking safes, dodging alarms and smashing their way into glass cases. The mix of video clips and animated scenes give a sumptuous visual appeal and set Smash & Grab apart from other crime documentaries. One of the highlights of the film is the spectacular footage of the Panthers driving two Audis straight through a Dubai mall's doors and lifting $4 million worth of swag all within the space of a minute.
Smash & Grab: The Story Of The Pink Panthers will be released on the 16th October in the UK, rated 12A.
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