Everyman Jason Statham helps pull of heist

CanWest News Service
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How we love the heist film: the assembling of the gang (the driver, the guy who can crack a safe in five seconds), the assembling of the plan (the blueprints, the schedule of the night watchman), the collapse of all hope (the unexpected patrol cop, the misfired gun), the twist at the end (they get away with it, or not.) Its based on a model that was put together by John Huston in The Asphalt Jungle in 1950 and tweaked with varying success since, played as a buddy film (Oceans Eleven), stylistic gorefest (Reservoir Dogs) or, in The Bank Job, cultural autopsy of the corrupt underworld of criminals, politicians and cops in 1970s England.

How we love the heist film: the assembling of the gang (the driver, the guy who can crack a safe in five seconds), the assembling of the plan (the blueprints, the schedule of the night watchman), the collapse of all hope (the unexpected patrol cop, the misfired gun), the twist at the end (they get away with it, or not.) Its based on a model that was put together by John Huston in The Asphalt Jungle in 1950 and tweaked with varying success since, played as a buddy film (Oceans Eleven), stylistic gorefest (Reservoir Dogs) or, in The Bank Job, cultural autopsy of the corrupt underworld of criminals, politicians and cops in 1970s England. The Bank Job is the story of a real robbery - the 1971 theft of millions from a Lloyds Bank in London - but the heist it is most interested in is the daring daylight robbery of decency and proper values during the Me Decade. The movie feints at the conventions of the genre, but it has bigger fish to fry, including sexual improprieties by the British royal family, policemen on the take, nefarious doings by the secret service and much more. Theres also a love story, a gangster drama, and the actual heist. Thats a lot of stuff for a movie starring Jason Statham, with all due respect, and while The Bank Job is entertaining, it is eventually suffocated by the collision of its plots, subplots, characters, conspiracies, and speculations. It doesnt help that the heist isnt especially ingenious - a gang of amateurs plans to tunnel into a bank vault and tear open the safe deposit boxes, seeking cash and jewelry - and that the only twist is that the robbers are the most honest people in the film. Statham plays Terry, owner of a semi-legitimate garage, who is recruited by his ex-girlfriend Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) to perform the robbery. Martine has an ulterior motive: she herself has been recruited by a secret service thug (Richard Lintern), with whom she is having an affair. The secret service wants a bank robbed because a London slumlord and pimp who calls himself Michael X (Peter De Jersey) has in his safe deposit box a scandalous photograph showing a member of the royal family naked, in flagrante delicto with what looks (in the opening sequence) to be a couple of other people. Terry goes for it - its a way to make the big score and get out of some loan shark trouble that haunts the edges of the picture - and then recruits his gang, a bunch of amateurs of the sort you would expect to be following Alec Guinness through some Ealing Studios version of this story. Theres a would-be photographer (Stephen Campbell Moore), a sometimes porn film actor (Daniel Mays) and a few others. Not a safe-cracker in the lot. This isnt Oceans Eleven; its a bunch of the lads from down the pub. Were not bank robbers, one of them points out. Maybe thats why we can get away with it, says Terry. With his five-day growth of beard and working-man accent (Ahll ave to fink about it) Statham is as appealing as a neophyte gang leader as he is as an action hero, but this movie calls on him to also be a loving family man, romantic lead, tough guy and confused amateur. The confusion is appropriate, because the thing about safe deposit boxes is that people put all sorts of incriminating things in them, and The Bank Job turns into a violent British gangster film - British gangsters are especially violent; it must be the pressure of doing dirty work on a small island - and political thriller that involves characters like Lord Drysdale, who would very much like to reclaim the photographs taken of him in chains and leather, being whipped into ecstasy at the local bordello. A porn king named Lew Vogel (David Suchet) also has some interest in the robbery, as do several branches of British law enforcement. The result is something like The Lavender Hill Mob meets Scandal, a messy and violent picture directed by Roger Donaldson (No Way Out) with an uneasily shifting tone. As in all heist films, theres betrayal, death and mayhem, but The Bank Job offers a jolt youll never get in a Danny Ocean movie: the royal involved in the naughty picture scandal is identified by name. It makes you wonder if it can possibly be true, and if so, what happened to the pictures. Hidden away safely, no doubt, in a vault somewhere. Rating: three stars out of five.

Organizations: Bank Job, Lloyds Bank

Geographic location: London, England

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