Judge Clark Douglas wondered what The Bank Job would be. Teller? Customer Service Representative? Oooh, maybe even manager!
Our review of The Bank Job: 2-Disc Special Edition, published July 18th, 2008, is also available.
The true story of a heist gone wrong…in all the right ways.
Phillip Lisle: "Your documentations and guarantees. If I were you, I'd keep them in a very safe place."Terry Leather: "Yeah, well it bloody well won't be a safety deposit box."
Facts of the Case
"I've got a proposition for you."
Those words catch the ears of Terry Leather (Jason Statham, War). Considering that these words are coming out of the mouth of a particularly beautiful woman (Saffron Burrows, Reign Over Me), it's not surprise. Her proposition involves robbing a bank, which is a risky job (even if it's a security-light 1971) with a potentially huge payoff. It's the sort of job that causes of one Terry's friends to say things such as, "You've done some naughty things in your time, but this is serious. Are you sure you want to do this?" Terry does indeed want to do that, and progresses to form a team to help him in the heist. However, things may be a little bit more complicated than he expected.
Anybody who knows much about my cinematic tastes will tell that I am most adamantly not a Jason Statham fan. It's not Statham himself so much as the movies he stars in: The Transporter, Crank, the forthcoming Death Race…to me, these are noisy wastes of time; mindless and uninteresting action trash. However, one friend of mine (who knows how I feel about Jason Statham films) informed me that The Bank Job was an exception. So, from the perspective of somebody who doesn't like Jason Statham movies, is The Bank Job worth a look? Ummm…Well, I do love me a good heist movie, which is a genre that usually involves more suspense and less noisy action that most Statham movies can handle. It's nice that we get some scenes here of digging, plotting, diagramming, and creeping about, and that Statham is required to participate in these activities. That being said, the details of planning this particular heist aren't really very interesting. Much of the dialogue is fairly routine, making me yearn for something with the verbal wit of something like David Mamet's excellent Heist. In the latter, we had such lines as, "Everybody loves money. That's why they call it money." Here, we have guys making statements like, "Let's make some money," immediately followed a montage of vault-drilling. Ho-hum. Surprisingly, I found the actions and procedures of the police and other characters attempting to intervene a lot more interesting than what was actually taking place with the robbers. The performances by all the bit players on all sides of the law here are agreeably convincing. This is probably Statham's best role to date, as a couple of scenes spotlight a level of tenderness that the actor is rarely permitted to demonstrate. Saffron Burrows is likable, but has little to do.
The film certainly has plenty of '70s atmosphere to spare, and features genuinely immersive set design. In some ways, the movie feels like the dirty little cousin of Boogie Nights, finding all kinds of nasty little places and people that were washed out by the tide when the 1980s rolled along. It's funny how every decade seems to have a unique brand of sleaze. The ingredients are usually the same, but the presentation varies from era to era. However, much of the '70s atmosphere in The Bank Job is deflated by J. Peter Robinson's modern, techno-influenced score, which perpetually reminds us that we are watching a film made in the 21st Century. But then, maybe the themes of The Bank Job apply to any time period, right? Maybe the filmmakers want us to know we're in the future looking at our past? Maybe…nah, forget that. The soundtrack needs a little more chicka-wow-wow and a lot less thump-bump-bump. The horror-flick stings that show up regularly later in the film are even worse. This is one of those rare cases where a score actually damages a film's credibility.
The transfer on this Blu-ray version of the film is excellent for the most part. The film has a nice old-fashioned look to it, and there's a nice balance between sharp detail and classic visuals. However, skin tones do look a little too orange in general. Maybe that's intentional, so the faces go with the carpet? The sound is strong, with dialogue, music and sound effects reaching a very solid balance. As for extras, there's a pleasant and mostly informal commentary with director Roger Donaldson, Saffron Burrows and J. Peter Robinson. "Inside the Bank Job" is a standard-issue 16-minute featurette on the making of the film, and "The Baker Street Bank Job" offers a brief look at the real-life event that inspired the film. Finally, there are six minutes of brief deleted scenes (most notably a passionate encounter between Statham and Burrows) and a theatrical trailer. Oh, and there's also a second disc, which contains a digital copy of the film. I'm seeing more and more of these on recent DVD and Blu-ray releases. Such a feature has little value for me, but I suppose there are some folks who appreciate such things.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though I don't think The Bank Job works so well as a heist movie (which it is for the first hour), the final forty-five minutes do manage to make things a bit more interesting. I'm hesitant to share details for fear of spoiling things for you, but let it be said that the film ultimately strives to be something slightly more than a simple crime movie. It's during this portion of the film that a whole host of supporting players comes into play, and the intriguing drama that ensues is almost enough to save the film. The film ceases to be a Jason Statham crime flick and starts to take on the form of something bigger and better. However, the rewards at the end aren't really enough to justify the investment that one must put into the thoroughly mediocre material that precedes it.
The performances by all the bit players on all sides of the law here are agreeably convincing. This is probably Statham's best role to date, as a couple of scenes spotlight a level of tenderness that the actor is rarely permitted to demonstrate (though don't try telling that to guy he bashes with a brick).
While The Bank Job has its moments, I found it to be an unsatisfying experience overall. Put it in the same league as slight misfires like Inside Man and Welcome to Collinwood. Rent this film if you need a quick crime flick fix, but there are so many superior crime movies ought there that you ought to be pushing this one towards the bottom of your Netflix list. One of those superior crime movies is an equally seedy but better-crafted crime flick (also co-starring Saffron Burrows): Gangster No. 1. Odds are pretty high that you haven't seen it or heard of it, but you crime flick fans won't regret checking that hot business out.
Guilty. Now all we have to do is catch the defendant, who seems to have disappeared from court. Why are the security guards lying in a pool of blood by the door?
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary w/Roger Donaldson, Saffron Burrows, and J. Peter Robinson
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