Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Movie review: The Bank Job (2008)


Jason Statham reverts bank to his native Mockney accent to play Terry Leather, a borderline criminal with bigger aspirations.  He's offered the chance of a heist by Saffron Burrows playing Martine Love and a way of resolving his cash-flow problems.  Putting together a team of like-minded wannabe gangsters, they proceed to dig a tunnel to get at the prize; a bank vault full of money, diamonds and goodness knows what else. Is everything as it seems?  Who is the shady Government department pulling the strings in the background?  And why are a prominent pornographer and black rights activist so interested in what the criminal gang pull out of those safety deposit boxes?


The Bank Job, written by acclaimed script writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, is based upon the real-life Baker Street Walkie-Talkie Robbery that occurred in 1971 which netted an unrecovered 5 million quid.  There is a fair degree of artistic licence it has to be said and as the actual security risk will never be ascertained until 2054 when the records regarding the robbery are allowed to be released, we have to accept this take on events.

Some of the period details are down pat.  Pivotal locations such as The Chicken Inn and Le Sac clothing boutique remain faithful, as does a two-way radio conversation between the robbers and a lookout being picked up by a radio ham operator.  Where Clement and La Frenais have to expounce the story to fill an overly long 111 minutes, the plotting becomes vague and there are a few superfluous strands.  An unnecessary romantic interest between Terry and Love clutters the main premise while certain key points from the real-life story are glossed over with little to no explanation.

Action is limited to a few Sweeney-like set-pieces but a couple of shocks along with a welcome slice of saucy seaside postcard naughtiness helps to push that rating up to 15.  Pacing is reasonable albeit with a plodding beat but at least the dialogue, mostly anyway, is snappy and fun.  The rest of the cast has been culled mainly from British TV with Daniel Mays and Keeley Hawes from Ashes to Ashes cropping up in accomplished side-roles.  David Suchet plays a villain with delicious certainty while Burrows is all face and no substance.

Director Roger Donaldson was on a hiding to nothing with The Bank Job.  He's filled it with an interesting cast and Statham was born to play the cockney wide boy but the individual parts don't add up to the whole.  The explanation for the D-note gagging order was fanciful at best and other details were too contrived to be believable.  It's worth watching to see if you agree but as a Saturday night viewing extravaganza, it falls short of the mark. 

Certificate: 15
Running time: 111 mins
Director: Roger Donaldson
Writers: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, David Suchet, Daniel Mays, Keeley Hawes, Peter Bowles

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