Saturday, March 8, 2008

From the Archive: "The Bank Job" Film Review

Film Rating: B+

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of “The Bank Job.”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“The Bank Job”
Originally published March 8th, 2008

The heist genre is an interesting one.  Often, they are vehicles for large, popular ensembles to have some on-screen fun (like both Ocean’s Eleven films, and the sequels to the remake).  They’re not always full of big stars, but usually follow the trend of being light-hearted and fun, sometimes being about revenge (The Italian Job).  As such, the newest member of the heist genre, The Bank Job, is a curious film indeed.  This is like Ocean’s Eleven without all the slick sophistication and humor, but with a much more complex plot and a darker tone. 

The film begins with a series of seemingly unrelated events that soon merge together to make a complex, but rewarding plot.  Set in London, Drug runner and supposed black radical Michael X (named after Malcolm X, who he claimed was his American counterpart) has taken pictures of a British Princess engaging in sexual acts, and is using the pictures as leverage to stay out of prison.  Some high-ranking government officials decide they need to get those pictures so they put the man in jail, but know they can’t let it look like the government was involved.  They give a shady woman by the name of Martine a pardon on a drug smuggling charge, as long as she provides them with the pictures, stored in a safety deposit box at a local bank.  She goes to some old friends, who haven’t pulled off a heist in years, to do the job.  Of course, not all goes as planned.

It’s a joy, in the first half hour or so, watching the Rubik’s cube of a plot come together.  I watched the trailer for this film, and found it to seem full of spoilers.  Surprisingly, it isn’t; the plot is quite a bit more complex than any summary or trailer can show.  The plot is definitely the film’s strong suit.  It races along at a good pace, and is full of twists and turns.  The finale is one of the most rewarding pay-offs in heist-film history.  If you like movies with strong, interesting plots, then this is the movie for you.  

What’s interesting is that the plot is actually a true film, but I guess the truth is often stranger than fiction.  This robbery was a big deal in Britain back in 1971, until a D-Notice gag order stopped the press from revealing the details of the heist.  The order was only recently removed, which allowed for this film, the first public account of the ordeal, to be made.  One of the most amazing things about this film is that it actually happened; this isn’t just good screenwriting.

The acting ranges from good to great, the best being star Jason Statham as Terry, the leader of the robbers.  Statham has done enough bad films in the last few years to fill up a $5 Wal-Mart bin, but I’ve always thought he had talent as an action star.  Surprise of all surprises, his best role yet isn’t an action role at all (excepting a brief fist-fight at the end).  Statham provides the slickness a good character in a heist movie needs, but also seems very human and down to earth; he’s not a God at this job.  This sets the character apart from George Clooney as Danny Ocean, who never really failed.  Statham is the only notable actor in the cast, but the rest of the crew does their jobs very well.

Well, the crew does their job well acting, anyway.  One of the cool parts of this movie is that the robbing crew are total amateurs; they banter about the robbery over their radios, and are never seen with gloves to cover their fingerprints.  It seems to ground the film in reality, because most robbers probably aren’t as good as Danny Ocean and his crew of fun-loving thieves. 

One of the film’s weak points comes from the characterization, though.  Apart from Statham’s Terry, the rest of crew largely feel like the same person, and it was hard to tell them apart sometimes.  There are no really colorful characters, something that is essential to a great heist movie.  The musical score and cinematography are nothing to crazy about; apart from the very smart script, a lot of this film is somewhat generic.  But sometimes, a great plot is all you really need, and while the film falls short of the classic heist films, the movie is definitely worth a watch.

And a note to Jason Statham---please, please don’t do any more Transporter movies.  You’re better than that, honestly.       

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