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Wednesday, March 5, 2008 01:40 am

Steal this film

Jason Statham shines in tale based on actual British heist

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The Bank Job Running time 1:50 Rated R Parkway Pointe
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The Bank Job Running time 1:50 Rated R Parkway Pointe

From a financial point of view, it makes sense that Lionsgate Films is promoting its latest, The Bank Job, as another hyperkinetic seizure-inducing Jason Statham actioner. After all, the actor has amassed a loyal fanbase with such B-movie favorites as The Transporter, Crank, and War, so touting this feature as just more of the same is a no-brainer. Too bad this strategy will only end up disappointing most of Statham’s fans and do a disservice to a fine heist film in the process. As directed by Roger Donaldson (No Way Out, Thirteen Days), Job winds up more gripping and fun than it has a right to be. Heist flicks are standard fare, but this fact-based film proves the maxim that truth is often stranger, and more compelling, than fiction. Statham is Terry, a car dealer in London circa 1971. He has a past, but he’s doing his best to live a respectable, straight life — until he’s approached by Martine (Saffron Burrows), an old flame who’s caught wind of a job that can’t go wrong. She proposes that Terry join a crew she’s assembled to hit Lloyds Bank of London. Needless to say, there’s more to Martine, and the job, than meets the eye. Using the old “tunnel in from an adjacent building” plan, Terry and his mates pull off the deed and appear to be on Easy Street, what with all the loot they’re about to make off with. Trouble is, they’ve also stumbled upon pictures, diaries, and other paraphernalia detailing dark secrets and nefarious deeds of the British royal family, London’s upper crust, and other citizens with ties to organized crime. The film, based on a caper known as “The Walkie-Talkie Robbery,” shifts from slyly amusing to deadly serious in a blink of an eye once Terry and his crew realize they’ll have pornographers, blackmailers, and who knows who else on their tail once it gets out that they’ve come into possession of so many dark secrets. However, the sensational media coverage disappears seemingly overnight, and it is suggested that the government stepped in and quashed the story for fear of embarrassing so many well-connected people. Interestingly, the real case was never solved. The script, by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, does a nice job of capturing British class warfare, characterizing the theft as an unplanned blow against elitism and hypocrisy that manages to bite its working-class heroes in the arse. As the magnitude of the trouble he’s in dawns on Terry, Statham shines. He can do fisticuffs in his sleep, but here we’re reminded that he can be a charming and engaging leading man who deserves far better scripts than the ones that have been coming his way.
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