A film review by Craig J. Koban
THE BANK JOB
2008, R, 110 mins.
2008, R, 110 mins.
Jason Statham: Terry / Saffron Burrows: Martine Love / Richard
Lintern: Tim Everett / Stephen Campbell Moore: Kevin / David
Suchet: Lew Vogel
one is willing to excuse and look past its horribly generic and bland as
vanilla ice cream title, then THE BANK JOB is a smart, wickedly droll,
well oiled, and exceptionally efficient heist film.
Instead of lazily floundering around in a sordid haze of star power
and vanity gone amok like other recent heist films (like OCEAN’S
and TWELVE, just to name a few), THE BANK JOB knows precisely
that the key to this type of genre filmmaking is a sense of intrigue,
involvement, and momentum.
Like the classic, hard-boiled auctioneers of the 70’s, THE BANK JOB has sensibilities that harnesses the pulp eccentricities and flair of Quentin Tarantino and the punchy blimies that populate the work of Guy Ritchie. Director Roger Donaldson’s crime thriller is tight, taut, spiffy, assured, and savvy as it spins a convoluted web involving robbery, a governmental conspiracy, a porn king, a Malcolm X-type radical, S&M loving politicians, and, among other things, a ménage tois involving a prominent member of royalty. It also mixes pathos, tension, and dark comedy with confident measure.
one commendable element to this film certainly is it evocation of great
period detail. Based on an UK
true story set in 1971, THE BANK JOB breathes with a considerable amount
of verisimilitude, from the lambchopped sideburns, oversized sunglasses, to the trendy and bold
clothing, to the set decoration, and so forth.
All of this is crucial for the film’s effectiveness, not to
mention that it does a virtuoso job of establishing viewers in its time
period. By appropriating tough as nails
films like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE BANK JOB has a breezy aura of
feeling like a 70’s film, not to mention that it gives you an “in the
moment” sensation and starkness that those films from the period evoked.
the uninitiated, the film is based on the true tale of a early 70’s
robbery – which became known as the “Walkie Talkie Robbery” – of
Lloyd’s Bank in Baker Street, London.
This was no ordinary heist. No
arrests were made and no money was recovered.
Not only that, but the story of the robbery was prevented from ever
being thoroughly told because of a D-Notice gag order placed on it by the
British Government. As the
film’s end title cards indicate, certain pertinent files that have
details regarding the crimes and the particulars are locked away
until 2054. Another one also
amusingly and ironically states, “Certain characters have had their
names altered or changed in order to protect the guilty.”
primarily why THE BANK JOB has much more urgency and intrigue than other
heist films. It mixes the
trappings of well-planned and executed robbery with that of a secondary
tale of governmental conspiracy. Certainly,
Donaldson’s film does take creative flights of fancy and is fictitious
to a degree, but it’s nevertheless a tantalizing spectacle.
And as for the “conspiracy” itself?
Well, the film starts it off with a sinful bang.
We see a Black Power radical that goes by the name of Michael X
(played by Peter De Jersey with a caged animalism and intensity) as he
manages to take some incredibly incriminating photos a very well know
Princess (never really shown on screen).
As he faces trial and possible jail time for kidnapping, he uses
these blackmail pictures as the ace up his sleeve.
The catch is that he has housed them in a safety deposit box hidden
at Lloyd’s Bank.
Intelligence, for obvious reasons, desperately wants to get their hands on
these photos in order for them to never see circulation.
A cagey and crafty agent, Tim Everett (in a performance of Daniel
Craigian swagger and coolness by Richard Lintern) decides to hatch the
ultimate plan that in no way shape or form will come back to haunt MI5.
Simply put, he will snuggle up close to his mistress, Martine Love
(the leggy and sultry Saffron Burrows, well cast) and persuade her to head
up a team that will break into the bank, secure the contents of Michael
X’s box, and return the contents to MI5.
Martine will be the only one aware of the government’s plan and
is to keep her lips sealed. She
has her own motives for agreeing to be a participant:
She will do the job for the government to get some clemency from a past drug
that she needs a “proper” team, she first goes for a man to stand
beside her on the team to head it up.
In this case it's an old flame name Terry Leather (played by the
master of uber-coolness and tough male bravado, Jason Statham), who is
running a failing car business. Even worse is the fact that Terry owes his debt-collectors
some serious quid, so he jumps at the chance for the ultimate bank job.
He is not made away of Martine's secret mission within the mission:
all he is told is that he and his partners can grab whatever loot they
want and keep it all. Sounds
and Martine then gather the usual British suspects for their big score,
which includes one of Terry’s mechanics, and old criminal veteran, a
lookout man, and, last but not least, a well-endowed former porn star.
Their plan for entry is fairly ingenious:
Take over a local business that is close to the bank, drill
underground until they reach the vault that houses the safety deposit
boxes, and rob it from the
inside without any sign of forced entry from outside of the vault door.
What’s even sweeter is that the bank vault door is on a special
timed lock, which means if any one comes a knocking from the outside, they
won’t be able to open it for several hours.
to say, the actual bank job in THE BANK JOB does not overwhelm the story
(the crew manages to succeed rather easily), but the film gets really
spicy in its aftermath. Terry soon discovers that there is more to the job than just
money, especially when he discovers the Princess' three-way sex sandwich
photos, but the stash they grab goes even further.
They grab photos of a senior MP in compromising positions at a
local brothel (compromising = dressed in a leather collar and being
whipped). Things get even
hairier when they uncover a ledger in one of the vaults owned by Lew Vogel
(David Suchet), a local club owner and pornographer that has details of
him paying off police officers. Things
eventually degenerate to the point where Terry and Martine’s gang, MI5,
the London PD, Michael X’s crew, and the hoodlums of Vogel’s crime
syndicate all intersect for a bloody showdown.
Dick Clement and Ian La Fenais (who collaborated on ACROSS THE
craft a script that was apparently assisted by anonymous sources to help
put all of the pieces together. At
best, THE BANK JOB could be aptly labeled as speculative fiction immersed
in a story of some quantified facts.
However, the material here is broad and spun together very
seamlessly to the point where we are never overwhelmed by it.
There are a lot of characters, interplay, secret alliances,
extortion, criminal activity aplenty, etc., but the writers and Donaldson
make the right choice by letting everything play out in chronological
order an avoid needless and overused stylistic touches, like fractured
time shifting and flashbacks. THE
BACK JOB is more systematically enthralling in the way it tells a complex
and widespread caper story with simple and defined strokes.
The film is also incredible witty and amusing, but the laughs never
feel phony or tacked on, plus there is copious amounts of violence, nudity, and sexual
innuendo that’s spliced in for good measure. Yet, Donaldson rightfully
places precedent on characters, dialogue, and mood before blood and gore.
As good as the writing and direction are here, THE BANK JOB may be overlooked for its standout performances. Peter de Jersey, as stated, plays ruthlessly cunning with minimal effort and Richard Lintern is great as the MI5 agent that has an emotionally detached charisma and flair. Saffron Burrows is effectual at balancing low-key sex appeal, elegance, and astuteness. And then there is Jason Statham, much more known for his action hero performances in the TRANSPORTER series, morphing so stalwartly into those type of rugged, razor sharp, tough guys that he and he alone does so well. He eases more into a straight role that –despite having some instances of fisticuffs – is more revealing of Statham's abilities as a subtle character actor. He is the solid and rock steady anchor of this film...and always carries a Steve McQueen level of cool.
THE BANK JOB is an adrenaline fuelled, wham-bang robbery thriller that brushes history and creates its own hyper-kinetic reality. It has a vivacious energy; impeccable pacing, chiseled and fine tuned performances, and is unpretentious in how it avoids stylistic overkill with its visuals and storytelling devices. This is a levelheaded and smoothly run engine that rarely has to kick into overdrive to hammer home its effect. At the heart of its is a underlining true story of complete absorption in how one London bank had its security boxes robbed clean, had no one brought to justice as a result, and – in an intriguing real life twist – had over a hundred people that used the boxes refuse to give details of the contents to help with a police investigation. All of this makes for a rich tapestry that’s immensely satisfying: THE BANK JOB is the anti-OCEAN’S heist film. Instead of getting a smorgasbord of self-aggrandizing Celebes trying to engage us with their shameless swaggering, we get a film that is lovingly old school with its keen focus on story, character, and mood. It’s a bloody great caper flick.