The Italian Job Review

May 30, 2003 | 5:21am EDT

When career thief Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and his six partners in crime pull off a brilliant gold bouillon heist from a palatial digs in Venice they toast their perfectly executed plan with champagne at the foot of the icy Italian Alps. But the celebration quickly turns sour when one of them turns out to be a backstabber. With the help of Stella (Charlize Theron) a professional safe and vault technician the group plots to get revenge--and their stash back. After a yearlong stakeout they trace the double-crosser to Los Angeles where he is living in the lap of luxury. The Italian Job is an update of the 1969 classic of the same name but unlike recent remakes it is fresh and thoroughly entertaining. Like the original the film revolves around a traffic jam of massive proportions orchestrated to facilitate the heist of an armored truck carrying some $27 million worth of gold bars. But apart from that--and the fattened-up BMW Mini Coopers--the two actioners have little else in common. The plot which is slightly predictable is much more straightforward and focuses less on the planning of the heist and more on the characters and their quirks. Although Wahlberg (The Truth About Charlie) has a headlining role in The Italian Job he does not hog the spotlight and is comfortable allowing the supporting cast to steal the film's thunder. As the gang's cool-headed leader Charlie levels out the others' wacky personas. Seth Green (Austin Powers in Goldmember) as Lyle the group's computer genius impressively flexes his comedic muscles and delivers some of the movie's funniest lines as well as in a running gag about Shawn Fanning (who makes a cameo appearance as himself) stealing his music downloading program in college while he was "napping." Jason Statham (The Transporter) is perfectly cast as Handsome Rob the team's expert driver and suave womanizer who does not say too much but certainly gets things done. Rounding out the crew are Mos Def (Brown Sugar) as explosives expert Left-Ear Edward Norton (25th Hour) as the insider man Steve and Theron (Trapped) as the brilliant and beautiful safecracker Stella. The actors bring uniqueness to their roles and form a dysfunctional yet balanced group of smooth criminals. It is never easy to remake a classic; especially one that has entire fan clubs devoted to it. But director F. Gary Gray who helmed the melodramatic A Man Apart delivers a thoroughly enjoyable movie with engaging characters and fast-paced action sequences involving almost every form of transportation possible. The boat chases through the beautiful and historically protected Venice canals are exhilarating and Gray manages to make them believable despite restrictions on boating speeds imposed by city officials. Stateside the Mini Coopers take center stage. In this modern remake the Mini is the vehicle of choice because its compact size allows Charlie and his crew to go where no other car can and they take full advantage of it. They expertly maneuver their Minis--one red one white one blue--through subways the Los Angeles River and inner-city traffic. (It will break the hearts of car enthusiast to know that out of the 32 Minis BMW handed over only three stayed pristine throughout the shoot). The best thing about this fast-paced flick is that it does not take itself too seriously and takes you along for the ride.

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