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|The Bank Job
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Roger Donaldson
scr Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
with Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, David Suchet, Richard Lintern, James Faulkner, Colin Salmon, Peter DeJersey, Sharon Maughan, Keeley Hawes, Craig Fairbrass
release UK 29.Feb.08, US 7.Mar.08
08/UK Arclight 1h51
Cool customer: Statham
Based on a notorious true story, the filmmakers connect rather a lot of dots to create a caper about government officials, corrupt cops, lowlife criminals and gangland thugs. It's an intriguing story, but too serious and overcrowded to be anything extraordinary.
In 1971 London, Terry (Statham) is a mechanic asked by an old friend (Burrows) to rob a bank's safe deposit boxes. What Terry doesn't know is that she's working for a government agent (Lintern) who's trying to recover evidence against a member of the royal family. But Terry and pals (including Moore, Mays and Faulkner) are stumbling blindly into even more trouble with a Soho gangster (Suchet), a brothel madam (Maughan) and a Jamaican revolutionary (DeJersey) who all have life-threatening secrets hidden in that vault.
As the case was never solved and the press was issued with a government gag-order, the writers have pieced this story together for the first time. What emerges here is a scandal on a massive scale. But it also feels rather fictionalised, as it's loaded with coincidences and convenient twists and turns. There are also so many characters that it's not very easy to keep them all straight, especially since so many are double agents.
Donaldson gives the film a fast, tough pace that's full of attitude, including a nasty streak of misogyny (women are mere sex objects, from Burrows' manipulated model to the strip clubs and brothels). The best sequence is the central heist, which is exciting and complicated, and keeps our interest even though there's not actually much to the film--no underlying themes, no character complexity. And there's a rather harsh shift in tone from the light-hearted caper to some very dark scenes of torture and murder later on.
The cast is fine, clearly enjoying the 70s period and creating characters that are likeable but thin. Statham is a solid leading man, although the attempt to develop some angst for Terry as he's trapped between spies, thugs, cops and his wife (Hawes) feels somewhat forced. And his (contractual?) fistfight scene during the big climax is more than a little silly. Clearly, the attention to factual detail only went so far.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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