Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Bank Job (2008)

Sometimes all I want out of my screwdriver is the ability to screw.

Enjoy the veiled sex joke and come back when you're ready to be a little more serious. Thanks.

Seriously, I don't need built in levels, attachments, rubberized grips and tempered steel shafts (man, this is getting a bit too much). I mean, that's all nice and everything, but ultimately all I really care about is, can the damn thing screw and unscrew?

The same goes for genre movies, and part of the refreshing thing about THE BANK JOB is it eschews flashy camera moves and unrealistic color palettes to focus on the hard mechanics of a heist movie. This isn't a Guy Ritchie flick, although Ritchie regular Jason Statham does star. What you see is what you get from director Roger Donaldson - a plot-driven heist film that tells the story it wants to tell and then gets the hell out of there.

The story is built around the true-life robbery of Lloyd's Bank on Baker Street, London in 1971, where millions in money, jewels and documents were stolen and never recovered. In real life, the British authorities issued something called a "D-Notice" which essentially classified the case, where it remains to this day. THE BANK JOB takes this bit of British history and weaves in a story about corruption at Scotland Yard, blackmail concerning a member of the Royal Family, and a nasty bit involving murderer and drug dealer who fancies himself the new Malcolm X.

Sound a little complicated? Not really. Besides some nonsensical jumping back and forth in time in the opening moments THE BANK JOB runs in a very linear fashion. Donaldson doesn't play the 70's time frame for laughs or nostalgia, instead keeping things relatively muted while grounding his characters in a way that would work in any time frame. Statham does a solid job despite being saddled with the silly name of Terry Leather, a small time crook trying to go straight. When the opportunity to pull off the heist presents itself, his motivation is to get out of debt and provide a better life for his wife and two daughters, something we wouldn't expect from a typical Statham vehicle.

And what of the hesit itself? While not as memorable as classics like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE or THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER, it works because the film doesn't let you forget that these guys are small time amateurs. So they screw up. A lot. part of the charm lies in the quirks and character flourishes each supporting member brings to the crew. Dave, who in his spare time does a little porn for one of the main villains in the movie orders fish and chips to be delivered to their hideout/cover. Terry employs Eddie, his employee from the car dealership as a lookout, and between the two of them names and more sensitive information is constantly spilled out over walkie-talkies. There's too much noise with the drill (they're tunneling underground to reach the bank vault). All of this leads to their eventual discovery, and the fun isn't in the robbery as much as it is in how this inept crew deal with (or not) what happens next.

THE BANK JOB falters a bit toward the end when, after placing so much emphasis on their small time status Statham suddenly becomes a master manipulator, moving all the pieces into position to ensure his and his friends' escape. The temptation to use Statham's physical prowess was also too great; he easily beats the tar out of two people in the film's climax, which opposes an earlier scene where he stands helpless while some thugs smash the car windows at his dealership. But these are small, forgivable things for a film that sets out to do one thing and sticks to the plan. I don't know if I'm ready to put THE BANK JOB down as a modern crime classic, but it's a solid movie that delivers on it's promise.

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