Take Five: Rome Review

Five men and a movie get into trouble after a successful heist.

Guido Lombardi's Neapolitan caper movie stars Peppe Lanzetta, Salvatore Striano, Salvatore Ruocco, Carmine Paternoster and producer Gaetano Di Vaio.

Four seasoned lawbreakers and an indebted city sewer employee gang up to break into the underground vault of a bank in the lukewarm Neapolitan heist movie Take Five, from Italian director Guido Lombardi

Although the idea of a Naples-set caper film is intriguing -- a potential cross between Gomorrah and Ocean’s Eleven -- and Lombardi casts some impressive local mugs in the main roles (even if not all of them are exactly fine actors), the film is unfortunately a low-energy affair that often looks as murky as its plot is convoluted. Beyond the Campania region, where the local actors and dialect should add to the film’s appeal, this is strictly a cinematic curiosity. The film was subtitled into Italian for its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival, where it was inexplicably part of the competition.

Lombardi not only directed but also wrote the screenplay for Take Five, with input from the film's producer, Gaetano Di Vaio, who also produced Lombardi’s first and much better feature, La-bas: A Criminal Education, as well as Abel Ferrara’s 2009 documentary Napoli, Napoli, Napoli. Di Vaio also co-stars as Gaetano, a former convict who now fences stolen goods and is one of the five of the title that get together for the big heist.

Gaetano is joined by “Showman” (Peppe Lanzetta), a legendary local robber; Sasa (Salvatore Striano), a criminal-turned-wedding-photographer at whose house the gang will convene after the heist; Ruocco (Salvatore Ruocco), a burly former boxer; and Carmine (Carmine Paternoster), a meek City of Naples employee who looks after the city sewers and whose gambling debts, combined with a convenient sewer leak that stinks up a bank’s underground vault, set everything in motion.

The crew’s first serious meeting takes place at a communal swimming pool swarming with kids, whose noise will drown out their conversation. The former jailbirds also literally show off their past on their bodies under the showers and, men being men, they of course have to compare the length of their sentences, which prompts the scrawny Carmine to admit he’s never done any time, ever. “Maybe this’ll be your lucky break,” Gaetano retorts. The sequence’s seemingly straightforward blend of story elements with character moments and humor is pretty spot-on -- if quite low-key -- but unfortunately, Lombardi is unable to sustain eventhis level for the rest of the film.

The film doesn’t seem that interested in the typical caper template setup, in which meticulous planning and the subsequent break-in are the meat of the story, but instead focuses mostly on what happens on the day after the vault’s been emptied, when all of the robbers are supposed to convene to divide the loot but various complications ensue. This takes away the audience’s potential to foresee what will happen -- who knows where this will go? -- but what could be something refreshing becomes a disadvantage in the hands of a relatively inexperienced writer-director who doesn’t seem to know himself what’s important, where the film’s headed or what the film’s even about (a genre movie in which you take out or speed quickly past the expected elements must put something at least equally as strong in their place).

Lombardi’s attempts at humor are also very hit-and-miss, with every chuckle-worthy turn of phrase followed by a blatantly racist or homophobic joke that makes the film feel extremely dated. And the cast doesn’t help, with some of the potentially decent lines suffering from problems with delivery or timing.

The camerawork is strangely flat and saturated, production design bare-bones and the score, by Giordano Corapi, jazzy, though instead of adding the customary playful element, the music is so laid-back and loungy that it slows down the proceedings rather than livening them up.

Production companies: Minerva Pictures, Figli del Bronx, Eskimo, Rai Cinema
Cast: Peppe Lanzetta, Salvatore Striano, Salvatore Ruocco, Carmine Paternoster, Gaetano Di Vaio, Antonio Pennarella, Antonio Buonomo, Esther Elisha
Director-screenwriter: Guido Lombardi
Producers: Gianluca Curti, Gaetano Di Vaio, Dario Formisano
Director of photography: Francesca Amitrano
Production designer: Maica Rotondo

Costume designer: Francesca Balzano
Editor: Annalisa Forgione
Music: Giordano Corapi
No rating, 93 minutes.