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Directed by
F. Gary Gray
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3 stars

Italian Job, The (2003)

Synopsis: The ‘Italian’ job is carried out by the brains, the demolitions expert, the elderly safe-cracker, the driver, the computer geek, and the treacherous guy. The treacherous guy kills one of the crew and makes off with the loot. The rest of the team are involved in an elaborate revenge plot in Los Angeles, calling on the help of the safe-cracker’s safe-cracker daughter.

To cut a long story short, this is one of those films that takes one or two stylistic and/or plot elements from an older classic film (which I have not seen), spins a completely new story around them, markets itself as the new improved version, and turns out kind of above-average in its own right, but not really inspired. It is not a remake in the sense of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, which has a recognizably similar plot to the original but is much more interesting to watch. I’ll take this opportunity to gratuitously point out that Soderbergh’s Solaris is not a remake of Tarkovsky’s film. Both films are based on the book of the same name. But I digress.

The Italian Job is an entertaining, frequently funny, well-made, well-acted and at times tense heist movie. It’s not particularly substantial, but successfully aims to entertain. It is notionally about honour among thieves and family loyalties, about theft being a means to
an end rather than just the acquisition of money. There is the enigmatic question of what makes people bad - is it the devil inside them? This question isn’t really answered or explored, however, as the crew embarks upon a fairly dispassionate quest for revenge. Still, the good guys don’t carry guns – they just allow the traitor’s karma to catch up with him.

There’s a great soundtrack and good performances from Donald Sutherland, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def and the under-utilised Edward Norton. It has its share of great one-liners and visual amusements, such as Skinny Pete’s way with words. Charlize Theron’s character has the most at stake, and is a good counterpoint to the lads. Some won’t like Wahlberg’s blandness. It works less well than in the great Three Kings but he keeps the ball rolling. Probably the most interesting character is the peripheral one of the gold trader. Perhaps he could have shared some of his lines and philosophical take on the world with the others.

And there’s the Mini Minor car chases, of course. If their appearance in the original movie was about the patriotic display of engineering skill and the red, white and blue colours of the Union Jack; their relevance in this Americanised ‘remake’ is a bit sketchy. But they are very cute and make me want to buy one. Their small size provides for creative options, and an involving level of intensity. Not quite up to the visceral energy of Ronin or Bullitt, but pretty nifty.

A downside of the film is that, unlike the original, there are no plummy accents and the ‘job’ in Italy is only used as an opening set up to get the revenge plot rolling. The rest of the action takes place in the streets, subways, and drains of Los Angeles. Europe provides some lovely cinematography, while LA is ok if your tastes are more industrial. Some things may grate, like the rather schoolboyish humour and sexual preoccupations of some of the crew. The joke about Seth’s character being the original inventor of the ‘Napster’ internet service got a bit tired for me. Lastly, I hate those cheesy voice-over endings that always seems like an afterthought, perhaps at the demand of test audiences and nervous studio bosses.

All in all, I would have preferred to see this movie succeed under its own steam and a different name, or as a real remake of what was reputedly a classic. But definitely worth a look for heist-movie fans.




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