Thursday, December 9, 2010

THE BANK JOB (2008): Movie About a Bank Heist

For a movie that is supposed to be based on a true story where the names have only been changed to “protect the guilty,” The Bank Job does not come across as particularly authentic or unique.  There’s some violence, a moderate amount of luridness, a number of subplots that at first seem baffling, and a lot of posing by actors that makes us think they’re pretty tough.  In truth, if the events of the 1971 robbery of Lloyd’s Bank on Baker Street in London had really taken place as portrayed in the movie almost every major character would still be in jail or dead.  It just goes to show that movies made in England are not always so different than ones made in America.
In The Bank Job, there are some compromising pictures taken of Princess Margaret, sister of the Queen, when she’s off vacationing with a couple of younger men.  The pictures are in the possession of Michael X (Peter De Jersey), an alleged black power advocate (but actual drug dealer) and friend of John Lennon and writer, William Burroughs, and are stashed away in safety deposit box no. 118 in Lloyd’s bank.  Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), recently busted for cocaine, is “persuaded” by a federal agent to set up a robbery of the bank to get the pictures back.  To assist, she presents the offer to her old boyfriend, Terry (Jason Statham), and Terry then recruits a few of his friends as well.  Terry’s seems likeable enough.  He runs a car dealership and has some debts he owes to a couple of loan sharks, but up until his involvement in the bank robbery (where he has a sexual encounter with Martine while inside of the bank vault) he appears entirely devoted to his wife, Wendy (Keely Hawes), and their two daughters.  Terry would like a little extra money to help the family out.
The amateur burglars do manage by some hard work and dumb luck to get themselves into the bank vault, but until they begin rifling through all of the safety deposit boxes they had no idea what all they were going to find.  Besides photos of the Princess, they also find a ledger of Lew Vogel, a trafficker in the porn business, who has kept the names of all of the corrupt cops that owe him favors.  There are pictures of wealthy aristocrats taken while visiting a brothel.  And there’s enough money secretly hidden away in the boxes to satisfy the greed of all of the accomplices to the robbery.  Unfortunately, because of some walkie-talkie communications by the robbers that were overheard by an amateur ham radio operator, it was fairly easy for all parties involved to figure out who the burglars were.  On the other side, we have individuals connected with the monarchy, the police, and members of the underworld all who were willing to take extreme measures to get the stolen goods back.
Efforts to recover the goods from Terry and his gang result in a couple of the minor players getting killed.  Then Dave (Daniel Mays), a good friend of Terry and Martine as well as participant in the heist, is captured by the sadistic Lew.  Lew tortures Dave and kills him after first pumping him for information.  Terry and Martine take this loss very hard.  Terry then makes a deal with the royal family – a deal he intends to keep.  The deal goes something like this: Terry and all of his partners will receive passports and a promise that no prosecution will occur in return for his turning over the pictures of the Princess to representatives of the monarchy.  As for the money, that’s for Terry and his cronies to keep.  Terry also negotiates with the other pursuers (though he has no intention of keeping any additional promise other than the ones he made to the royal family).  Mostly he feigns making other deals to keep all parties off balance and arranges to meet everyone at a train depot.  As far as Lew is concerned, Terry has other plans.  At the train station, Terry beats Lew up and manages to fight off all of Lew’s henchmen.  Terry gets his passports and the promise that he and his cronies will not be prosecuted, and he walks away from the train depot unscathed.  In the closing scenes, Terry apologizes to Wendy for his indiscretion, Martine tells Wendy that Terry loves her (Wendy), and Terry and his family then buy a big boat.  We also find out that Michael X was arrested and later executed for a murder he committed in Trinidad. 
It sounds confusing, but other than Director Roger Donaldson’s deliberate obscuration of the plot it’s not all that difficult to figure out.  We can’t exactly accuse it of being a blatant rip-off of Little Caesar starring Edward G. Robinson because The Bank Job contains a number of modern touches.  There are themes about scandal, police corruption, greed, lust and anger, but we’re not moved nor particularly upset by anything that ever happens.  There are already too many movies showing similar motifs in more graphic detail (including ones starring De Niro or Joe Pesci).  The acting of the lead character is the movie’s main asset.  Jason Statham as Terry comes across as delightfully human through most of the movie until the last fifteen minutes when he becomes a super hero.  Terry screws up, tries to make amends, and bumbles his way through the bank robbery.  Sadly, I felt Saffron Burrows as Martine to be about as genuine as a typical female police detective in a television drama. 
The movie is well paced (110 minutes in all) and doesn’t leave you much time to be too bored.  None of the characters are too good to be true.  The movie does not rely too much on one-liners by the characters to make up for a lack of a plot.  The Bank Job probably is better done than the thousands of movies already made about bank heists, and it is moderately entertaining.  It’s just fairly forgettable. 

March 27, 2008
© Robert S. Miller 2008

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