An intriguing true crime telling of one of the most unbelievable bank robberies in history.
Heist movies with preposterous plots are nothing new in Hollywood. Movies like Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job or The Getaway are about entertainment rather than reality. They are fun-to-watch, lighthearted crime flicks, but no one thinks too deeply about the reality of their plotlines.
The Bank Job might just be the most preposterous heist film ever made. And yet, with a few liberties here and there, most of it really did happen.
Back in 1971, a ragtag group of part-time criminals received a tipoff about a potential score at a bank on Baker Street in London. The plan was to tunnel into the vault and raid the safety deposit boxes. They communicated via radio signal with an outside lookout and the transmission was intercepted by a local ham radio operator. He contacted the Scotland Yard who attempted, without success, to thwart the robbery in progress. As it turned out, there were a number of items housed within the vault worth far more than money. From papers belonging to the mob to pictures of Parliament in an S & M brothel and, oh yeah, photographs of Princess Margaret involved in a series of sexual indiscretions with men and women. This was big, embarrassing stuff for England, forcing a gag order on the press that has pretty much kept the details under wraps ever since.
In this retelling, Jason Statham plays Terry Leather, the group's de-facto leader. He hears of the job from former flame Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), who wants to join in on the heist but is also concealing some key details about where she learned of the score. The supporting cast includes Daniel Mays, James Faulkner, Richard Lintern and Michael Jibson, The Bank Job is directed by Roger Donaldson (Species, The Recruit).
Sometimes reality is far more entertaining than fiction and that is the strength of The Bank Job, a decent enough heist flick that entertains but would probably be quickly forgotten if it weren't for the utterly fascinating story from which it draws its origin.
Donaldson's retelling starts slow as the story sets itself up. Unlike most heist flicks, the planning of the heist isn't really that important. The heist itself is decently executed, but the true crux of the story revolves around the fallout from the heist. From this point on, The Bank Job picks up steam. Sadly, the inconsistent Donaldson never truly succeeds in elevating the movie above tride and true heist flick territory despite the fantastic material he's got to work with.
Statham is at home playing the same simple, slick con man he's played about a dozen times before. Surprisingly, he spends far less of this film with fists flying and more time jawing and mugging for the camera. Although the part isn't exactly a stretch for the actor, it's nice to see him carry a part without high kicks or a piloting a black Audi's racing across parking garages.
Saffron Burrows is still gorgeous and those looks serve her well enough to overshadow a ho-hum performance as "the girl." Sure, there's a more complicated back-story where her character, Martine Love (is that name for real?), had a previously fling with Terry and Terry's wife is none-too-keen about their business venture and so on, but it's not a terribly important or compelling plot point.
The Bank Job is good, but not great. If the first half were as strong as the second, it would be an easy high recommendation, but as is, it's just a moderately entertaining heist movie that is probably better as a rental (or download) than being worth your $10 bucks at the theater. You could do worse (especially this time of year), but don't expect to be riveted from start to finish. Personally, I'm more interested in learning more about the actual story of the Barker Street heist.