Characterized by cunning and skill, the 'Pink Panthers,' as they are known, have eluded Interpol and other authorities, despite major coordinated efforts to catch them. Despite their desire to lay low, they have acquired celebrity status, and taken on an almost mythic identity that's akin in popularity to that of Robin Hood.
The Inside Story
Filmmaker Havana Marking captures all of the mystique in Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers, but she also sets us squarely inside the work-a-day world of the robbers, interviewing gang members who are represented on screen in very stylish graphic animation. One woman describes how she cases target shops, entering them in disguise, and changing her identity so often she's practically forgotten who she is. A gang member who boasts confidently that he can open any kind of safe used to hold gemstones, confesses to ongoing paranoia while he's not actually on a job.
They are a highly organized team of what may well be hundreds of people who hail from Serbia. Apparently, they began their activities during days of extreme economic hardship after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and when European nations set up economic sanctions against Serbia, causing financial strife and national resentments that resulted in rampant smuggling and other illegal activities.
Tracking the Pink Panther Story
The film shows through footage taken by surveillance cameras at the scenes of actual heists and reenactments how the Pink Panthers operate on the job. They actually do smash cases and grab the contents -- mostly diamonds, diamonds and more diamonds. Their antics and tactics include using the amped up volume of a carnival procession to cover the sounds of their demolition of a bank wall in Spain, of driving brand new BMWs into a shop front in an upscale mall in Dubai and riding on souped up scooters to invade a jewelry boutique in Geneva. These are ploys that might be used in Hollywood blockbusters -- but its not evident who might be the copycat.
Filmmaker Marking has gotten extraordinary access to gang members. She's also gotten to the detectives and inspectors who are working with Interpol and other international law enforcement agencies. They are remarkably candid about their deep frustrations with regard to stopping the Pink Panthers' crime spree and indicating their resolve to do so.
Marking's access is phenomenal, although it's not always entirely clear how she managed to contact and interview gang members who are ostensibly in hiding from the law and anyone who could lead the law to them. Nor is it always clear whether you're watching footage from an actual incident or a reenactment.
But, if you're willing to accept the interviews and footage as truth to the story and valid, whether they're authentic or reenacted doesn't effect the film's flow. This documentary plays like a high octane Hollywood crime thriller. And, as in many contemporary Hollywood caper films, in Smash and Grab, crime pays -- for real, and in huge sums.
A Balkan Primer
While the documentary covers vast geographical territory, its real focus is on the Balkans, and it provides an informative contemporary history of the region. By connecting the dots between international affairs, economics and criminal activity, the film creates an unusual perspective on the political, financial and social pressures that prevail in the area today.
All in all, Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers is entertaining and insightful. A must see.
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- Title: Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers
- Director: Havana Marking
- U.S. Theatrical Release Date: July 31, 2013
- Running Time: 75 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Locations: United Kingdom, Geneva, Dubai, Serbia, Spain and other locations.
- Language: English
- Production Country: USA
- Production Company: Roast Beef Productions
- Distribution Company: Goldcrest Films
- Official Website