Cincinnati takes over 'Marauders' movie with local iconic set locations

CINCINNATI — For many people who live or work near Downtown, this is probably a familiar scenario: After a long day, you go to Arnold’s Bar and Grill for a beer and dinner to unwind.

This is also the case for three characters in “Marauders,” the new bank heist movie directed by Steven C. Miller that was shot entirely in Cincinnati last October.

The film, which had a private screening at the Esquire Theatre on Thursday, reaches its climax inside an easily recognizable Arnold’s. Three of the movie’s main characters, played by Christopher Meloni, Adrian Grenier and Bruce Willis, are also served their just desserts in Arnold's, one of the city’s oldest pubs, before the closing credits roll.

“Marauders” is the latest in a series of recent movies featuring recognizable Queen City locations. The Oscar-nominated “Carol” and the critically acclaimed Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead” also recently featured Cincinnati as a stand-in for 1950s and '60s-era New York City, respectively.

What makes “Marauders” stand apart from those other films, though, is that it is set entirely in Cincinnati.

(Side note: After attending the Thursday premiere, I can safely say the movie probably won’t receive critical acclaim. It plays like a fun summer popcorn flick.)

The opening immediately lets us clearly know where the film is set with a sweeping aerial view of the city’s unmistakable skyline, which Miller said he fell in love with during his first visit to scout shooting locations.

Audiences can expect to see many recognizable locations throughout the movie. The Roebling Suspension Bridge gets its close-up in that opening scene, along with the streets of Newport, Great American Ball Park and Great American Tower. The film then shows us the interior of Dixie Terminal for a bank robbery scene with a group of well-trained thieves, kicking off the action of the film.

From there, we get a high-rise view of the Banks, Smale Riverfront Park and the Ohio River from the office of the bank’s owner, who is played by Willis. Meloni and Grenier, along with Dave Bautista and Johnathon Schaech, are then introduced as the law officers pursuing the thieves, who quickly hit more banks.

The good guys end up chasing the bad guys through the streets of Over-the-Rhine, the halls of the Cincinnati Art Academy and the brewery tunnels of Over-the-Rhine. There are glimpses of O’Malley’s In the Alley, Nicholson’s Tavern and Pub and Carew Tower. Even the Speedway gas station near Fourth Street in Covington gets a shot in the movie during a bonding scene between Schaech and Grenier’s characters.

As the action progresses, though, it becomes obvious that the Cincinnati of “Marauders” is a smaller city than our own.

When police start talking about places like Indian Hill and West Chester, those communities feel as if they are only minutes away from Downtown, not the miles and counties away in our reality. A West Chester bank robbery location in the movie that looked suspiciously like Fourth and Elm streets received a chuckle from the audience at the premiere. Indian Hill lacked the large manicured lawns one would expect at a multimillion-dollar home visited at one point during the film. The Cincinnati Police headquarters in the movie looked a little dated. (It was actually a vacant office space converted into a fictitious police headquarters.)

What received the most audible reaction from the local audience, though, was that last scene at Arnold’s. Without giving too much away, it is amazing to see what a little file footage of Mexico City, a mariachi band, and chips and salsa can do for a familiar place where three guys order drinks and food after a hard day’s work.

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