“YOU DON’T KNOW ME, UNLESS YOU KNOW ABOUT ME AND TOM SAWYER.”
Aaron and Adam Nee decided to begin Band of Robbers, a reimagining of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, with a quote from Mark Twain: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” This quote, while admittedly funny, is a bit misleading, as the film had ample amounts of motive, morals, and plot.
For those of you who never had to read Mark Twain in school (or for those of you who were supposed to, but didn’t), Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are two young renegades from St. Petersburg, Missouri, searching for adventure and glory. In the modern Nee Brothers’ version, they’re all grown up. At first, I thought this would defeat the whole purpose of Tom’s character, as his main personality is a childish dreamer. However, Adam Nee (who plays Tom in the film) manages to add another level to Tom, who in his twenties still holds aspirations of being remembered as a sort of Robin Hood. Huck (Kyle Gallner), on the other hand, begins to believe that Tom’s big plans of memorable heroism are impossible, and wants to put his years of juvenile delinquency behind him.
This film, first and foremost, is a comedy, though its flavor of humor stays true to its characters. For example, when Tom first assembles his Band of Robbers, he recites an oath, which he wrote in a resume builder, because he couldn’t figure out how to change the format: “By joining this band, I agree to stay loyal and not share band secrets with others. If I do, I agree to have my throat cut, and a curse to be put on my head forever, and it be set on fire, and never talked about anymore.” These are the ravings a twelve-year-old coming out of the mustached mouth of a twenty-something, and it’s absolutely delightful.
Even the blood-curdling villain, Injun Joe, played brilliantly by Stephen Lang, has his laughable moments. He tells Tom and Huck’s friend Joe Harper about how he got shot in the face, and says something to the effect of, “That’s how I got this scar. Not this scar. That’s another story, but I’m gonna talk about this one because I feel it’s more relevant to the moment.” The Nee brothers have a knack for their characters speaking seemingly out of turn within the scene, but the dialogue always fits the character. Injun Joe (who is not Native Indian, but identifies with the aesthetic, and may or may not be racist) was an absolute treat to watch saunter across the screen.
The Nee Brothers did not let the comedy stop, except for a few more touching moments, like when Huck admits he doesn’t want to be involved in Tom’s schemes anymore. However, these sentimental scenes are short and sweet, allowing the plot to move rather quickly. One could easily argue that it ran too quickly sometimes, but I enjoyed its fast-paced weirdness. It put me in the mindset of a child, which is what this film is really about.
If you love clever childishness, you might also like Band of Robbers.
Magnificent comedic dialogue
Injun Joe. Just… Injun Joe. He’s great
Interesting take on Tom Sawyer’s character
Plot moves fast
Music is occasionally distracting