You know what isn’t fun at all, it turns out? The life of the international jewel thief, which, based on the evidence Havana Marking assembles in the diverting, revealing Smash & Grab, involves everything that is the opposite of glamour: endless planning, waiting, paranoia, and being bossed by distant toughs whose exact identities you’re not supposed to know. The title here is accurate in the sense that the Serbian heist masters known as the Pink Panthers ultimately smash into jewelry stores and start grabbing, but that smashing is choreographed for months and that grabbing is sharply targeted, even in the spectacular case that opens this doc: a pair of SUVs, seen in security footage, crashing down the corridors of a Dubai mall. In hundreds of jobs all over the world, the Panthers have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds. Marking and company have convinced two actual Panthers, a man and a woman, to dish about their exploits; their words are read by actors, and the duo are presented as animated characters, but their storytelling is wildly involving, whether they’re describing misadventures from actual heists (the safe that wouldn’t crack!) or the recent Yugoslav Wars that left so many dead—and so many without access to legitimate work. The doc breezily sketches out the process of casing, smashing, grabbing, escaping, and fencing, not in as much detail as David Samuels’s stellar New Yorker piece on the Panthers a couple years back, but with some added pathos. The woman, especially, has grown sick of the thieves’ life and its attendant hair-color–changing, and rather than boast about her exploits she confesses them, both to us and to her God.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 31, 2013