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Film / Band of Robbers

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"Tom and Huck are all grown up...sort of..."

"After so many years of chasing a fairy tale, most people would be ready to give up...But Tom Sawyer isn't most people..."
Huck Finn

Band of Robbers is a 2015 modernization of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain directed by siblings Adam & Aaron Nee (the former previously an ensemble cast member on Drunk History). The story draws heavily from Twain's classic novels, including characters, plot twists, and even dialogue.

Recently released ex-convict Huckleberry Finn (played by Kyle Gallner) is trying to "go straight", but his childhood friend, underachieving cop Tom Sawyer (played by Adam Nee), has other plans. The two form the "Band of Robbers" with their bumbling friends, Joe Harper (played by Matthew Gray Gubler) and Ben Rogers (played by Hannibal Buress), and plan to rob a pawnshop where local legend Injun Joe (played by Stephen Lang) — a vicious white criminal and treasure hunter who imitates Native American culture — has stored a mysterious package that Tom's friend and contact Muff Potter (played by Cooper Huckabee) believes is the legendary Murrell's Treasure, for which Tom and Huck have been searching since childhood; Tom uses the logic that robbing "bad guys" makes the Band "good guys". Things get complicated when Tom's commanding officer, Lieutenant Polly (played by Lee Garlington) — who Tom, living under the shadow of his more successful detective half brother, Sid (played by Eric Christian Olsen), has frequently begged for more responsibility on duty — assigns him to train Becky Thatcher (played by Melissa Benoist), his eager-to-please rookie partner, and the hung-over Band's heist goes awry. Tom is undaunted, however, and leads the Band on a wild treasure hunt from one mysterious clue to another. When Huck's friend, Mexican day laborer Jorge Jiminez (played by Daniel Edward Mora), who unknowingly served as the Band's driver during the heist, is mistaken as being a conspirator in their activities and arrested, Huck and Tom, on the run from a vengeful and murderous Injun Joe and the police, lead the band on a mission to rescue Jorge and be the heroes they always wanted to become.


Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parent: Pap Finn to Huck in the prologue.
  • Adaptation Distillation / Compressed Adaptation
  • Adaptation Inspiration: Despite being based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the film tonally and stylistically, as well as in its premise of wannabe heist-pullers, resembles Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket as well as the early films of The Coen Brothers.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Huck is noticeably more somber than in Twain's novels.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Muff, an amiable ally towards Tom and Huck in Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, caves in to Injun Joe's threats and aids him in his search for Tom, Huck, and Murrell's treasure in the climax. He also seems to suffer from Death by Adaptation when he and Injun's henchman Packard drive Tom's squad car into the river, though this is not entirely confirmed as the event was offscreen.
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  • Age Lift: The film is about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as grown men.
  • The Alcoholic: Muff Potter.
  • Another Story for Another Time: Huck says this about his journey to take Jorge home in the epilogue, though snippets are shown visually and it seems to be a reference to ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn''.
  • Black and Grey Morality:
    Tom: Think of it like this: Robin Hood...and his Merry Men: robbing from the rich, giving to the poor...keeping some money — keeping the money?
    Barnes: What, we're bad guys?
    Tom: No, we're heroes —
    Barnes: Sounds like — sounds like bad guys...
    Tom: When you steal from criminals, it makes stealing more of a good thing than a bad one, okay? Now if you wanna just hang on and I'll —
    Ben: It's still illegal, though, right?...
  • The Caper
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Tom, Harper, and Ben; helps that Ben is played by Hannibal Buress.
  • Costume Porn
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Tom may be a doofus, but he is creative at the best of times, able to quickly come up with another possible solution for everything, and can be a great example of a Guile Hero when he puts his mind to it.
  • Demoted to Extra: Doc Robinson is killed just as quickly after his first appearance in Band of Robbers as he is in Tom Sawyer, but plays a pivotal role in the plot of Tom Sawyer, in which he also appears much earlier than in this film.
  • Denser and Wackier: Pretty much most of the characters, especially the Band.
  • The Determinator: Tom, and — to a lesser extent — Huck.
  • Dirty Coward: Muff Potter.
  • Disappeared Dad: It's not mentioned where Pap Finn, Huck's dad, went after the scenes in which he appears in Tom and Huck's childhood, though notably Tom does tell Huck, "us orphans, we gotta stick together."
  • Disney Death: In one of the most comedic examples perhaps ever, Joe Harper.
  • The Dragon: Packard to Injun Joe.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Injun Joe is killed with a pistol by an elderly woman whose car he was attempting to hijack while chasing Tom and Huck.
  • Easter Egg: A lot of them. These include:
    • Tom's commanding officer is, according to her office door, named Lieutenant A. Polly, a reference to her counterpart Aunt Polly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
    • In Tom Sawyer, Tom's schoolmaster is named Mr. Dobbins; in Band of Robbers, Dobbins is the name of he owner of the pawnshop that the Band robs — and is played by none other than Creed Bratton (of ''The Office'' and The Grass Roots)!
    • In the film's epilogue, Huck's "adventure" to take Jorge home shows (though they are not named) two men who are clearly intended to be the characters of "The Duke" and "The King" from Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; As cameos, The King is played by filmmaker Rick Rosenthal (director of such flms as Halloween II, Russkies, Halloween: Resurrection, the 1983 Sean Penn vehicle Bad Boys, and The Birds II: Land's End, and producer of Band Of Robbers itself), and The Duke by Zach Steel (the voice of Ronaldo on Steven Universe).
    • A lot of the climax takes place in the Hannibal Hotel; Hannibal, Missouri, was Mark Twain's hometown, and where he based the city in which Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were set on.
  • Expy: An interesting variation — despite Tom Sawyer being a previously established and well-known character, Adam Nee's version seems to almost be an expy of Owen Wilson's character Dignan from Wes Anderson's film Bottle Rocket; it's essentially Nee drawing parallels between the two and bringing out the material's themes. In a more straightforward example, Becky seems to be one of — oddly enough — Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation.
  • Fangirl: Joe Harper is practically Tom's groupie. Also, Becky Thatcher, who asked to be assigned as Tom's partner.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Injun Joe spends some time having casual conversation with Joe Harper about such trivial topics as their shared first name, all while being fully prepared to kill Harper if necessary to find Tom and Huck's location.
  • Five-Man Band: Well...the Band: Tom is The Leader, Huck is The Lancer, Ben and Harper are both variations of The Big Guy (although Harper serves mainly as a one—man Groupie Brigade), and Tommy Barnes (played by Johnny Pemberton) is the Only Sane Man; there really isn't an example of The Smart Guy in this crew...
  • Flaying Alive: Injun Joe is known for scalping his victims.
  • Freudian Trio: Tom is The Kirk, Huck is The McCoy, and Becky is The Spock.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Widow Douglas (played by Beth Grant) is a religious zealot.
  • Genki Girl: Becky Thatcher.
  • The Heart: Huck.
  • Henpecked Husband: Though they seem to be reasonably happy, Tommy Barnes seems to be one to his wife (and Tom's ex-fiancée) Amy Lawrence (played by Maria Blasucci).
  • The Hermit: Muff.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tom takes the fall for the Band's activities and creates a diversion to throw the police off in order to let the Band and Jorge escape.
    Harper: That's pretty goddamn heroic, Tom."
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tom and Huck.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass / I Just Want to Be Special: Tom.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: After getting out of jail, Huck wants nothing more than to start a family and live a life "on the straight path".
  • I Warned You: After the Band pull off their robbery but the pawnshop's contents turn out not to be what was anticipated, Barnes tells Harper and Ben, "I told you so."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tom Sawyer.
  • Leitmotif: A few, such as the thundering of drums for Injun Joe and the sound of a Nostalgic Music Box whenever Tom and Huck get particularly passionate about finding Murrell's Treasure.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Injun Joe tells Harper a story about his horrific childhood and his first murders while trying to get Tom and Huck's location out of him, offering Harper a Last Chance to Quit if he gives his friends up.
  • Lovable Rogue: Tom Sawyer, of course.
  • Love Interest: Becky for Tom.
  • Manchild: Pretty much the entire Band, but especially Tom and Harper.
  • Mood Whiplash: For a lot of the second act, the film becomes notably Darker and Edgier (especially compared to the original source material), especially in the standoff at the Hannibal Hotel.
  • Now What?
  • Only Sane Man: Tommy Barnes quits the Band almost immediately after it is formed after Tom reads out its oath. The Band still continues to use Barnes' basement as their base of operations, despite his objections to their activities.
  • Pirate Booty: Murrell's Treasure, though John Andrews Murrell was technically just a bandit...
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Injun Joe is a culturally appropriative white man who "identifies with the culture and the aesthetic" of Native Americans; in his mind, though, objections to this are a case of Everything Is Racist.
  • Puppy Love: Tom and Becky.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Lampshaded nearly verbatim by Ben towards the end of the film when Tom rounds up the entire Band one last time to rescue Jorge.
  • Race Lift: Injun Joe, a white/Native American "half-breed" in Tom Sawyer, is now a white man played by Stephen Lang — allowing the film to make a point and derive humor from frequent Hollywood whitewashing — and Jim, an African-American slave in Huckleberry Finn, is now a Mexican immigrant renamed Jorge Jiminez.
  • Real Place Background / Scenery Porn: A lot. It's a beautifully shot film.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Huck is the blue to Tom's red.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Tom concocts an elaborate fib about Huck being "FBI Special Agent George Jackson" and the hunt for Murrell's Treasure really be an operation to "bust the cartels".
  • Running Gag: A few.
    • When Huck says that Injun Joe is in fact a white man and not a Native American, Harper asks why he calls himself this, to which Tom replies, "I guess he just identifies with the culture and the aesthetic." Harper asks, "But isn't that kinda racist?", to which Ben poses the question, "How is it racist to want to be another race?" Later, when Harper is ambushed by Injun Joe in his car, he asks Joe the same questions to his face, to which Joe gives the exact same responses near-verbatim.
    • The back door of Tom's minivan opening by itself, which happens three times throughout the film.
    • Ben's insistence to be called the "cool" name of "Greg Knife" during the holdup results in the Funny Moment.
  • The Savage Indian: Subverted; Injun Joe mostly fits this trope, right down to scalping his victims (frequently referenced throughout the film), but is in fact a culturally appropriative white man — as "he just identifies with the culture and the aesthetic". This may in fact be to illustrate his lack of understanding of actual Native American culture.
  • Shipper on Deck: If his wink to Tom when Tom hands him a letter to give to Becky as Tom goes to sacrifice himself for the Band at the end of the film is any indication, Ben Rogers is one.
  • The Slacker: Tom.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Tom Sawyer.
  • Stupid Crooks: The Band of Robbers, of course.
  • Successful Sibling Syndrome: Tom is stuck in the shadow of his more successful detective half-brother Sid, who is so successful that he is being given the keys to the city by the mayor.
  • Tagalong Kid: Though he is the same age as the rest of the Band, Joe Harper is pretty much this.
  • Terrible Trio: Injun Joe, Packard, and (begrudgingly) Muff.
  • Truer to the Text: Despite the large amount of changes, Band of Robbers may well capture the spirit of Twain's novels the best out of most of their adaptations, and include Easter Eggs and elements that are commonly left out of many.
  • Wealthy Ever After: The fate of Harper, Ben, and Barnes after the Band successfully finds Murrell's Treasure.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Huck gets in one of these towards Tom towards the end of the film that borders on a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: Subverted/zig-zagged: when the Band steals what they believe is Murrell's Treasure, it turns out to merely be just over $200 in bills and a rusty pewter coin; however, the coin turns out to be a clue to finding the real Murrell's Treasure, which is indeed real and valuable.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Tom Sawyer.
  • You Keep Using That Word: The following line is the most notable example:
    Tom: [to Becky] Enchanté — after you.
  • Zany Scheme: Tom is established as practically devoting his life to these; also, real crimes like the heist planned by the Band are portrayed (and seen) as these...until Injun Joe comes into things and Reality Ensues.

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