Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Bank Job **1/2

Director: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows
Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, Richard Lintern

Based on a true story, "The Bank Job" takes on the September 11, 1971 robbery of a London bank, where over a hundred safety boxes were emptied and a D-Notice was released to the press in order to preserve the identity of all the involved.
Jason Statham plays Terry Leathers, a small time crook trying to live the decent life as a garage owner. His ex-girlfriend Martine (a sumptuous Burrows) tells him that she has the floor plans to a local bank and if they pull off a heist they can retire and live the big life.
What Terry doesn't know is that Martine is being blackmailed by a MI5 agent (Lintern) who knows she has contacts in the underworld and is trying to recover some information from one of the safety boxes that incriminates a certain member of the British Royal Family.
In more than one way, beginning with the Steve McQueen-ness of Statham, "The Bank Job" is a direct throwback to classic films of the genre.
Like "Rififi" it takes us to every step of the process, including the consequences, which are often obviated in the genre because they take the glamour away from the crime.
During the actual heist sequences the movie can't stress enough the fact that these people are not professionals and that everything can go wrong when we least expect it.
The simple fact that you never see them wearing gloves makes you gasp and wonder how things will turn out for them.
Director Donaldson does marvellous work keeping suspense and giving the film a darkly comedic touch when it needs it the most.
"The Bank Job" plays more like "Boogie Nights" for thieves than any of the Ocean's flicks, because it embraces the grittiness that comes with any sort of crime.
The characters sadly aren't the kind which you totally identify with, they mostly remain archetypes and when the script attempts to give them some dramatic tension the results are more awkward than interesting.
And it's here where the film doesn't pull off the masterful hit with the audience, as it dangles dangerously between its intentions of uncovering history and the limitations that must come with making a movie out of it.
One of the movie's most delightful elements is how it peels off layers revealing a British hierarchy that goes beyond social classes.
There's mobsters, corrupt policemen, kinky royals, porn barons and more, all looking to preserve their status.
And when the film concentrates on what will happen next, there's a whole lot of wonder not even a safe is able to contain.

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