The master and apprentice tale is one that seems to be able to cover most genres of film and has been integrated into countless films over the years. From classics such as The Sting to the likes of Star Wars and Kung Fu Panda we see the theme being played out to great effect. Is is one of the staples of modern cinema storytelling that accurately reflect real life. Where would any us be without being guided by an experienced hand. This is why it resonates with us and still proves to be popular with Artists in all forms of entertainment. One of the latest entries to cover this is the 2012 short film, Mugging for Amateurs, from Scottish writer / director Johnny Herbin.
We open on a girl being followed on the other side of the street by two suspicious looking individuals. Their actions are clumsy and obvious which draws the girls attention to them. As she picks up her pace so do they. Spooked, the girl enters a shop to get away from the men. Thus we are introduced to Robbie (Calum MacAskill) and Jamie (Scott Denny). Robbie is the criminal mastermind (in his own head) that is showing the ropes of following and obtaining goods by intimidation and threat. Having abandoned their first attempt they move on to scoping out a new victim. In this case an elderly woman. Robbie is taking great delight in passing on his crime life lessons that they again miss the chance to carry out their intentions. Moving on to third time lucky the guys split up to approach their next victim from two sides. Jamie didn’t bank on a chance meeting with his mum to distract him. To add to Jamie confusion, Robbie has found the next victim and is putting their plan into effect.
As always with short films I am immensely impressed with what the film makers achieve. To produce a film that has insight, imagination, humour and tension all in nine minutes is to be applauded. Due to the length you are thrown into the middle of the action from the start. There is no indication of motives or background. Jamie, the apprentice, never indicates his motivations for wanting to learn the trade. He obviously idolises Robbie, believing almost everything he says. We get a sense of awe when Robbie mentions a bank raids. What Jamie doesn’t see, or chooses not to see, is Robbie’s flaws. He is supposed to be the experienced mugger but he messes up the first one with his actions. In the second one he appears to be passing on advice. You quickly realize that the advice is only imparted when Jamie makes a mistake and Robbie corrects him. It isn’t really constructive knowledge transfer.
The film has some very interesting shot choices. In the opening sequence we see the girl being followed in sharp focus with the muggers in the deep background. They are out of focus but are a clear presence in the scene due to their bumbling actions. The rest of the film has quick edits to match the short sharp dialogue. All this builds tension as the guys lead up to their next attempt. There is a nice shot of two pigeons during a conversation. As Robbie is holding court the birds fly away. A neat point is being made that even the vermin of the sky can’t stand to hear any more of Robbie’ nonsense. There is also a neat parallel in the film. When Jamie is listening to Robbie he only hears what he wants to hear and filters the stuff he doesn’t want to hear. we see this again when Jamie is talking to his Mum. She exhibits exactly the same trait when Jamie is trying to tell her that he is waiting to mug some one. She interprets this as him waiting on a date possibly with a man.
The small cast are excellent, making their characters believable and entertaining. The mother played by June Hazel is really good in her supporting role. Also good in a supporting role is Mandy Bhari as a potential victim.
Overall another accomplished film from Johnny Herbin and crew. Entertaining and very enjoyable. Recommended.
You can view an excerpt of the film below.