Skills Like This is a caper comedy of little consequence, the sort of small-time indie feature that is obviously the beloved group project of its makers. Watching it is like watching a short student film: it’s probably made primarily for those who made it, most enjoyable for them, and good luck to them.
Max (Spencer Berger), a laconic, bow-legged fellow with a huge afro (the selling point of the film, according to the ad art) faces the brutal fact that the plays he writes are not only bad, but harmful, after his latest possibly causes his grandfather to have a heart attack. Acting on impulse, he successfully robs the bank across the street from the Mexican restaurant where he eats every day, and thereafter embarks on a klepto crime spree throughout Denver, having discovered his true talent: stealing. He also grows involved with the teller who handed him the money at the bank, whom he meets at the bar later that evening. Whenever a film involves a bank teller as a major character, it’s best not to take the film too seriously, and Skills Like This is no exception. The film is an amalgamation of funny elements which don’t have much to do with each other, as writing and robbing convenience stores don’t have much to do with each other (perhaps if Max found he was especially good at plagiarism the film would be more coherent) but are absurd enough in arbitrary conjunction for comedy. Funny, too, is Berger’s spaced-out performance, calling to mind Napoleon Dynamite and other low-key, offbeat comedies.
The film has a strong score, the work of well-known bands (New Order, 27/11) and unsigned musicians from Denver’s vibrant music scene (the Hi Beams, the Wheel), friends and filmmaker Monty Miranda and favorites in his native Denver, who appear as source music in the film, and who will hopefully hereafter reach a wider audience. Miranda is obviously fond of his city, captured by shots of slow-moving trains and sunny lazy streets, infusing the film with a strong sense of place appropriate to its general hang-out vibe.
At the end things are sort of set up for a sequel, probably to be titled Skills Like That. I look forward to seeing it, almost as much as the filmmakers look forward to making it.