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Derek Tsang gets the business from boss Lam Suet in Robbery.
Chinese: 老笠  
Year: 2015  
Director: Fire Lee  
  Producer: Paul Cheng, Paco Wong, Chan Hing-Kai
  Writer: Fire Lee, Frankie Tam, He Xin
  Action: Yick Tin-Hung

Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, J. Arie, Lam Suet, Stanley Fung Shui-Fan, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Eric Kwok Wai-Leung, Anita Chui, Aaron Chow, Edward Ma Chi-Wai, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong

  The Skinny: Uneven black comedy about a convenience store robbery strains through its serious sections, but nails its dark and violent comedy. As a satirical take on Hong Kong’s increasingly desperate denizens, Robbery scores.
by Kozo:

The long-delayed black comedy Robbery goes to dark and frequently violent places but ultimately manages decent affect. Director Fire Lee improves upon his earlier films (Give Love, Love in Time) by pushing black humor and timely satire over existential romance and drama, though he does serve up those things, too. Robbery opens with an inspired introduction to slacker Lau Kin-Ping (Derek Tsang), who openly admits to his loser status. After witnessing an unfortunate double suicide, Ping applies to work at Exceed, a convenience store run by a jerkoff owner (Lam Suet), where he continues to slack and screw around in funny and frequently off-color ways. Ping's admission to the work force isn't handled in a realistic or logical fashion but that's okay – Robbery is clearly exaggerated and satirical in its characters, storytelling and situations, and it only gets more out there as it chugs through an increasingly preposterous series of events.

The titular robbery occurs when an elderly customer (Stanley Fung) tries to make a purchase and, after some frustrating and funny interplay with the store owner, decides to rob the place with a pair of scissors. With the owner sidelined by a neck injury, the robber ends up taking the occupants of the store hostage. This includes Ping, his co-worker Mabel (J. Arie,) and a customer (Keung Ho-Man) who has to use the toilet every few minutes due to a bad case of diarrhea. As the evening progresses, more colorful characters enter, including a buxom hottie (Anita Tsui) in a cheerleader outfit and a skeevy suit-wearing lothario (Eric Kwok). Eventually a gun is produced, more people – some of them cops – show up, and then the gun begins changing hands, leading to the situation escalating with every new person who touches it. Naturally, people die. Scratch that – there's nothing in this movie that's natural at all.

Though sometimes uneven, Robbery is successful as an off-color and wickedly funny ride. Fire Lee's gallows humor is on point and the performances are effective. Lam Suet, Stanley Fung and Keung Ho-Man ably shore up the supporting roles, while J. Arie is winsome if not a tad too cartoonish as the love interest. Derek Tsang is perfectly cast as a cynical slacker, though he suffers a bit when asked to emote seriously. Robbery is quite stagey – the actors are given lots of room to work, events take place in mostly one location, and the convenience store set is bigger than it reasonably should be to accommodate the action. Moreover, some parts are ridiculous – like how the characters can hide or even take cover from gunfire using the store shelves. Robbery would need to take place in a supermarket to allow that to happen. Granted, Robbery never positions itself as reality, but these details do hurt suspension of disbelief.

Despite piling on the violence, the film never loses track of its black comic heart. That is, until the ending when it gets all metaphysical on the audience, with references to the afterlife and fate. There's some creativity at play here but also the same self-serious importance that plagues too many Hong Kong films of the past decade. When the dark humor and wild situations settle down, it's questionable how much we'll care about this slacker and the relationships he had or may yet have. What Robbery absolutely nails, however, is the desperation and hopelessness that comes with being a "small potato" in modern Hong Kong. Given the realities that Hong Kongers face – from skyrocketing rents to shirinking personal space to the ever-encroaching hand of China – becoming a broken misanthrope is something that actually becomes relatable. Flawed but genuinely inspired, Robbery is a pessimistic, blackly funny product of the times. (Kozo, 10/2016)

Notes: Robbery received its Hong Kong theatrical release in early April, 2016 – nearly a year after premiering overseas at the 2015 New York Asian Film Festival.
  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Deltamac (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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