Bank Robber (1987) from Tuna

I'm not sure of the reason or reasons why Lisa Bonet, former Cosby kid, had such a minimal career.

  • I don't think it could have been concern about her acting range, because from what I've seen of her over the years, she was reasonably competent and seemed to have enough raw talent and intensity so that she could have been molded into a good actress, or at least a satisfactory one. Her youthful performances are no worse than those of Nicole Kidman or Jessica Lange, and they became solid actresses. Bonet could have as well.

  • I think we can all agree that there was nothing wrong with her looks. She was an exceptionally beautiful and sexy woman.

  • She certainly wasn't shy about sex and nudity as she proved in this film and in Angel Heart.

So what was the deal?

There were rumors that she was difficult to work with. And I mean exceedingly difficult, such a diva that she made Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Faye Dunaway, and Streisand seem as amenable and laid-back as Tom Selleck. I suppose that probably was the case, or something like that, because no matter how beautiful and talented a woman is, that phone is going to stop ringing eventually if three conditions are present: (1) she makes everyone's life miserable (2) she has no inherent powerful box office appeal (3) she is not involved in the production side of the film, either personally or through her significant other. Some of those other divas mentioned above have been able to skate through for years on the basis of their own show biz power or the clout of their husbands, but eventually what goes around comes around, and they will not need to ask for whom the telephone bell tolls. It will toll for others.

At any rate, Lisa started to have problems after her divorce from Lenny Kravitz in 1993. Her emotional state was stressed-out and she wasn't showing up for work on time, if at all. Within about two years, she sank from high profile movies and TV shows to B-movies, and then, in one stretch from 1994-1998, wasn't working at all. She's currently trying to work her way back into the business, but she's nearly 40 now, so she's in a situation comparable to a woman who has been in a coma since 1994. She can't go back to what she used to do - play the hot young minx -  so her success depends on whether she can find a suitable screen persona for a 40 year old.

This particular movie was made at the beginning of her decline, right about at the same time as her divorce.

Bank Robber is a dark and surreal comedy. Patrick Dempsey plays a second or third generation bank robber who screws up one day and allows himself to appear unmasked on a surveillance camera during a robbery. This forces him to go underground by holing up in an a flop house hotel. In fact, it is the Heartbreak Hotel, and it is down on the end of Lonely Street.


This strategy keeps the police from finding him but, unfortunately for him, pretty much everyone else in town knows who he is and where he is. The hotel employees figure it out, and then others get in on the poorly kept secret. These people are certainly not going to go to the police, at least not until Dempsey is out of money, because he is their cash cow. He needs various services: food and light bulbs, and what have you, and he finds that people will not respond to his needs unless he pays them exorbitant amounts to guarantee their silence after they do the assigned tasks. After a while, people even start demanding outrageous amounts for things he does not want. The pizza guy delivers a $500 pizza that Dempsey did not order. The local drug dealer brings by some overpriced drugs, even though our hero does not even use drugs. Even a local TV broadcaster comes by for an interview obtained by extortion. Poor ol' Dempsey is even the cash cow for the bank he robbed and its corrupt officials, who claim that he stole many times the actual amount.

Dempsey tolerates all this abuse because of his dream that he'll eventually sneak out and take his faithful girlfriend (Olivia D'Abo) to the Caribbean on the yacht he plans to buy. Needless to say, she is across town loving long time with various and assorted friends, neighbors, and passers-by.

The only person who treats the bank robber fair and square is an honest hooker (Lisa Bonet) who falls in love with him.

The film is rated a bottom-dwelling 3.8 at IMDb. That might be a bit low, in my opinion, but I can understand why people have problems with the film. There is nothing at all exceptional about the script. The writer did have some very funny ideas, but just didn't know when the jokes were over, so the script drags out some of its comic premises too long and too repetitiously. Because of that, describing the film makes it sound better than it actually is. Frankly, I was getting sick of people knocking on the hotel room door to extort money from Dempsey, and I was really bored with the overuse of the device where he fantasized one thing about his pure girlfriend, and we then saw her impure reality. 

The film does have one great unquestioned strength. The cinematography is surprisingly good. It was done by Andrej Sekula, the talented Polish cinematographer who was Tarantino's main man at the time, having done Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and the Tarantino portion of Four Rooms. Sekula also did a variety of other eye-catching films, like the stylized and modern American Psycho, and a colorful costumer called Cousin Bette.

The only other noteworthy aspect of Bank Robber is that when it came out it was rated NC-17. Unfortunately, as far as I know, it is now impossible to find the original NC-17 cut of this film in any medium, and even the R-rated video is now out of print. Sekula's photography, combined with some offbeat set design and the rarity of the original NC-17 cut, would make this a nice DVD issue for collectors, but no such animal exists in any region, at least to my knowledge. 

  This title is not available on DVD, and the NC-17 version is not even available on VHS. Furthermore, the R-rated version is now out of print, although it can be obtained from resellers or used.



  • Lisa Bonet: breasts and bum in some hot sex scenes.
  • Patrick Dempsey: buns in a sex scene with Bonet.
  • Olivia D'Abo: breasts in two scenes.
  • Steven McDonough: buns in a sex scene with D'Abo


The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 3.8/10. It isn't that bad.
  • It grossed a whopping $100,000 in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. The 3.8 at IMDb is too low. It's no Pulp Fiction, but it's sexy and is an OK black comedy and social satire. Bottom line: good ideas, insufficient forward momentum.

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