The Italian Job (1969) / Crime-Comedy
MPAA Rated: Rated G, but contains some suggestive humor
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Margaret Blye, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, Rossano Brazzi
Director: Peter Collinson
Screenplay: Troy Kennedy-Martin
Review published March 9, 2003
The Italian Job is a cult classic caper film, not a great one, but great fun. There isn't much to the film except for Michael Caine's (Battle of Britain, The Island) amusing performance and a lengthy but well-made chase scene involving three Mini Coopers. Some of you may be seeing this after watching the American remake of 2003, but I must give you warning that they are two very different films from different eras and different sensibilities. Outside of the heist plot, the type of cars, the traffic jam, and the name of the protagonist, there's very little else to correlate between the two. Unfortunately, the changes have more to do with the dated nature of the hip and fab 60s film, but its also what gives the original its cheeky charm to begin with.
Michael Caine is Charlie Croker, recently released from prison and immediately pulled back into a life of crime when he gets a tip from a deceased friend about a scheme to steal $4 million in gold out of Italy. To fulfill the job, Charlie must get the plan financed, and he turns to the lavishly incarcerated Mr. Bridger to front the money. Through an incredible effort and escape plan, Charlie and his crew of thieves travel to Italy to complete the job, but not everything goes on without a hitch.
It's definitely an entertaining romp most of the way, with a particularly thrilling car chase sequence which comprises almost a third of the total running length, and a cliffhanger ending (literally) that will leave you riveted, although it will split viewers as to whether it's a good ending or not. Caine is his usual charming self, and provides much of the reason as to why things move along during the scenes where there's little action. The rest of the cast is full of no names and thinly drawn characters, so Caine must carry the weight of the personality of the film solely on his shoulders. He comes through smashingly.
The Italian Job is a must for those who enjoy heist films and movies from the 60s with mod British fashions and lingo. It's still a hip affair, and a good companion to the similar film from the following year, Kelly's Heroes. Fans of Caine, or even the Mini Coopers, will especially find a very fond place in their heart for this cult flick. The Italian Job is one job well done.
©2003 Vince Leo