The Bank Job Review

Mar 07, 2008 | 4:14am EST

Shiny and neatly wrapped The Bank Job is like a present you missed the first time around. Based on the 1971 Lloyds Bank "Walky-Talky Robbery" in the U.K. the film incorporates most of the crime's actual colorful mortals: a porn star a local druggie and a British equivalent of Malcolm X. Jason Statham's Terry Leather is the movie's only fictionalized amalgam. Fixing cars as a low-rent bad guy Terry is propositioned by old friend Martine (Saffron Burrows)--an incandescent low-lidded local gadfly--to rob a local bank's safety deposit boxes and split the proceeds. The extra actors start piling up to mildly confusing effect. Two teams of British spies chase down Terry and Martine as does a separate band of merry crime-makers. The Bank Job is also a condemnation of behind-the-scenes government collusion with giants in the criminal underground a commentary on how the U.K. system works and how absurd it is when something goes awry. The movie's real-life tie-in gives it extra credibility points. The Bank Job’s characters are a comic book-esque a little one-dimensional and simple-minded but intentionally so. We're almost not supposed to know too much about their motives. Leading man Statham a kind of post-The Rock pre-Matt Damon action hero is above-average--though he isn't likely to win Oscars any time soon. A good actor Statham seems to be most comfortable in genre or ensemble flicks that make him center stage such as his work in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Italian Job. But can certainly handle the chores if needed as he did for The Transporter and Crank--action movies that show his physical abilities. Burrows an accomplished U.K. actress and former model is a lively mess a kaleidoscope like vision of a Factory Girl-like kook. The supporting characters are nicely pitched Brits. Director Roger Donaldson is a mid-sized American icon of cinema the past 25 years directing low-brow but memorable movies such as Cocktail Thirteen Days  Species and The Bounty. He helms the story with a veteran's ease with several scenes framed like a ‘70s-style British flick. Donaldson kicks The Bank Job into and out of gear several times but the movie really works best when the speed picks up. Smart banter abounds--between the spies the dim-witted criminals and old flames Terry and Martine. Conversation lulls the movie at some points but the intrigue is welcomed. Even an intense torture scene is shot cleverly much like the Reservoir Dogs ear-cutting scene: little blood and maximum suspense. The Bank Job delivers the goods.

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