The Bank Job (2008) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for violence, nudity and language
Running Time: 110 min.

Cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Richard Lintern, Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner, Alki David, Michael Jibson, Georgia Taylor
Director: Roger Donaldson
Screenplay: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
Review published March 7, 2008

Loosely based on the true tale of the infamous 1971 bank heist on Baker Street, London, The Bank Job is a mildly effective political thriller and heist flick that only generates honest interest if you take into account the events and conversations of the film as actually what happened.  With details suppressed for decades due to a D Notice (now, DA Notice), i.e. a national security request to bury a news story, the "walkie-talkie" bank robbery made headlines for several days, only to disappear from the news altogether the next, never to be heard from again.  No one was arrested, and none of the 500,000 was ever recovered.  With the help of a supposed informant close to the case, screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (Flushed Away, Across the Universe) seek to put the pieces of the puzzle together to explain just what happened with the job, and the reasons behind the cover-up.

Jason Statham (War, Crank) stars as Terry Leather, a two-bit car salesman who is being harassed constantly by thugs sent by the local loan shark for payment.  He finds he may have a way out of debt when an old friend, Martin Love (Burrows, Reign Over Me), approaches him on her plan to stage a perfect bank heist.  After gathering his crew, Terry sets about on a dig under the bank from a nearby establishment, not knowing that Martine is in cahoots with MI5, who are eager not for the money, but for the possession of photographs locked in a safe deposit box that show a member of the royal family engaging in tawdry sex at a kinky brothel.  However, a nearby ham radio operator is able to pick up on the conversations from the men's walkie-talkies, and soon the police are tipped off as to what's happening, though they aren't sure which bank.  With the lid about to be pulled off, decisions are made, deals are double crossed, and everyone's out to save their own ass before a major scandal erupts.

Set in the early 1970s, the film itself resembles a 70s thriller, a time where films about heists and political corruption were all the rage.  Director Roger Donaldson (The World's Fastest Indian, The Recruit) employs an old school approach to the direction, which in today's world will either be seen as refreshing or stale, depending on your perspective on the throwback execution.  At the same time, there is an odd lack of excitement much of the way; given the sex and violence that fills the bulk of the film's run time, one wonders why there wasn't more effort to engage audiences with some style and flair.  Good performances keep the film buoyant, and there are some killings late in the movie that are delivered with impact, enough to garner the meekest of recommendations for genre fans, especially those who love the ones from the 1970s.  However. I suspect after its debut on home video, there will be few others who even remember seeing a standard thriller about as generic as its title.

Qwipster's rating:

2008 Vince Leo