Ruben Brandt Collector is a heist film with elements of noir, mystery, and horror all presented in a radical animation style emulating cubism. The title character (voiced by Iván Kamarás) is a psychotherapist suffering from recurring nightmares where he is attacked by figures from famous paintings. To reclaim his sanity, Rubin teams up with four of his patients to steal thirteen paintings from museums across the world. Does the film live up to its influences or is this art project a question of style over substance?
The film’s brilliant premise of heisting famous paintings in an expressionistic world takes a backseat to the protagonist’s overly convoluted backstory. The heists themselves are done in a short montage format without any preparation for circumventing security.
The fun elements of a heist movie are missing while long action set pieces appear spontaneously with little ramifications to the plot. We’re catapulted from one set-piece to the next so rapidly that there’s no time to get emotionally invested. While the nightmare sequences are initially scary, they lose their punch once you realize Rubin isn’t in any real danger.
Many scenes appear to be put in just to achieve an homage to another film or work of art rather than further character or story. The pervasive use of easter-eggs proves meaningless when separated from the societal context in which the artworks were created.
While the expressionistic art style may look off-putting in the trailer, it’s easy to get used to in the film. Ruben Brandt Collector revels in creative character design. The film’s strongest moments seamlessly blend noir archetypes through a cubist prism.
This is intended to be a spectacle film, and in that regard Ruben Brandt Collector excels. Every frame is meticulously crafted and looks like its own expressionistic painting. As an R-rated animated film, Ruben Brandt Collector doesn’t shy away from blood and nudity. Yet, all the adult themes are handled with maturity and intense visual artistry.
Ruben Brandt Collector is an easy recommendation to those in the animation community. Its creativity and artistry are undeniable. As a work of mature animation, the film will no doubt open doors to more kinds of stories that can be told within the animated medium. However, the story doesn’t live up to the artistry. It felt more like touring an art gallery than watching a heist film. Ruben Brandt Collector succeeds in making a motion picture, but it’s a picture that fails to move the audience.