Review by Sean Boelman
There are interesting true stories, and then there are true stories that are simply so weird that they seem like they couldn’t possibly be true. Eric Merola’s documentary The Andorra Hustle tells one such tale, and while it does become somewhat hard-to-follow at times, it’s just crazy enough to be compelling.
The film tells the story of one of the most unorthodox and convoluted bank robberies in history. Involving false accusations and dirty officials around the world, Merola spins a web of all the lies that worked together to scam so many people out of their money. There are a lot of technicalities, and even more use of jargon, that may prevent a lot of viewers from understanding the movie, much less connecting with it.
At two hours in length, Merola’s film is definitely very in-depth, which is both a strength and a burden. Viewers will finish the movie with an appreciation of the complexities of the situation, but also may find themselves overwhelmed with the level of detail with which Merola attempts to explore every angle to the situation.
And while one may wonder why this story about a little European country that a lot of people have probably never even heard of is relevant, Merola does a good job of placing it within its international context. This isn’t just a story of one nation’s financial woes — it’s about how corruption on a global scale can affect even the most apparently sound of institutions.
The film’s main purpose seems to be to ask the question of who is really responsible for this catastrophe, and it soon becomes clear that there is no clear answer. However, the way in which Merola discusses the ideas of culpability and blame is very interesting and shines a light on some of the greater issues within society.
That said, the movie does struggle to provide the audience with a subject with whom their sympathies are supposed to lie. Obviously, we feel bad for the people who were the victims of this scam, but there are also points in the film in which it seems as if we are supposed to feel bad for the bankers who were involved, and these portions don’t work as well.
Stylistically, it feels like Merola threw a bunch of ideas to the wall in an attempt to see what sticks. It’s clear that he’s a talented filmmaker, and he takes a creative approach to a story that, quite frankly, few people would normally ever care about. But his attempts at gimmicks, like the use of animation, are a bit too inconsistent to be of much impact.
The Andorra Hustle works because its story is so weird, but it won’t have much general audience impact because of the level of precision with which Merola tells the story. Still, those who like capers will find themselves interested by this hard-to-believe true story.
The Andorra Hustle is now streaming on Amazon Prime.