standerI love crime films, especially ones about bank robbers. There have been many great ones throughout Hollywood’s history and the ones that immediately come to mind as personal favorites are Heat and Bonnie and Clyde. You always root for the anti-hero protagonist despite his criminal behavior and although you know the protagonist is most likely going to meet a bloody end, you hope that he ends up in Mexico or wherever he dreams of retiring. Stander is your classic bank robber movie and in the pantheon of heist pictures, this film ranks pretty high up there. Now most of you have probably not heard of this movie and the studio can be thanked for that. Stander was released in 2003 and the studio seemingly dumped the film straight to DVD with barely any marketing. This is a film that deserved strong support from its studio and its a damn shame the studio lacked any faith in it.

Stander stars Thomas Jane, an underrated actor who I have grown to appreciate over the years. I had basically written Jane off after first seeing him in the awful Deep Blue Sea. He struck me as yet another talentless pretty boy who was being groomed by the big studios to be America’s next action hero. However, after watching him in The Mist, I realized Jane had a lot more to offer than the material he had thus far been given. In Stander, Jane plays the titular character, Andre Stander, a South African police captain who, after a fit of white guilt for the atrocities his government was committing against the blacks, he decides to be a sort of Robin Hood by robbing banks. By the way, in case you’re yelling ‘BULLSHIT,’ this is a true story. Jane easily delivers his best performance to date with Andre Stander. I was particularly amazed by how convincingly he pulled off the South African accent. His character is shown at the beginning to be a macho handsome guy who likes fast cars and who excels at his job as police captain. However, after participating in attempting to quell a riot by black protestors, he realizes that South Africa’s Apartheid government is the real problem and his duties as police captain contribute to its oppressive regime. In a fit of guilt and self-realization, Stander decides to rob banks and lead a sort of Robin Hood existence. Deborah Kara Unger also co-stars in the film as Stander’s wife. Unger is one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses who unfortunately remains under the radar. She usually plays damaged characters, which she does very well and does again in this movie.

Stander is nothing that you have not seen before in crime films about robbers. Like romantic comedies, you pretty much know how the film is going to end. The film’s appeal is in watching the characters commit the crimes and involve themselves in an increasingly more difficult situation until they either die or get caught in the end. Especially given that this is a true story, you know that there is no way for Stander to get away with all the shit he pulls off. Something has got to give by the end and it does. I was convinced by the effect of the riot on Stander’s decision to begin committing crimes. However, the filmmakers lead the audience to believe that Stander will rob banks primarily to give money to the poor blacks. Although we see a couple of scenes where Stander does indeed hand money out, he mostly spends the money to support his lavish lifestyle.

The cinematography and production design significantly contribute to the success of Stander. I am not familiar with the different varieties of film stock, but the film looked like it was shot on the same type of film used in the 70s, which is when the story takes place. You can see the careful attention to detail the filmmakers spent in conveying the time period from the costumes to the locations. Stander is a beautiful looking movie that anyone who appreciates photography or cinematography should make a point of seeing for the visuals alone.

I recommend Stander as a film that will appeal to most of you. Its an unappreciated movie that unfortunately was not given a chance during its non-existent theatrical release. Thomas Jane pulls off a great performance in a beautifully shot movie that moves along at a brisk pace. Stander is reminiscent of the great crime films of the past and hopefully it will be recognized as such by audiences.