On April 15, 2007, members of the international jewel-thief network known as the Pink Panthers broke into a store in Dubai’s Wafi Mall and made off with millions in diamonds. Havana Marking’s highly uneven documentary begins with actual surveillance footage of the incident, then goes back in time to explore how the Panthers came to power.
Smash & Grab aims to replicate the mesmeric tension of a Michael Mann thriller (the crime-cinema impresario is even explicitly referenced by one of the cops assigned to hunt down the group), though the film is so all over the place stylistically that it often seems like several different movies cut together. Interviews with law-enforcement officials and beat reporters adhere to the standard talking-heads format, while two of the Panthers are portrayed by actors (one male, one female) in distracting rotoscope animation sequences straight out of A Scanner Darkly (2006).
More interesting is one of the sub-threads—a sort of documentary-within on the former Yugoslavia (from where most of the Panthers hail) and its quick dissolution after the death of dictator Josip Broz Tito. Only here does Marking truly get beneath the skin of this shadow organization, laying out a politically charged case for how attractive crime becomes when faced with a life of disparity.
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Cast and crew