“Knee-deep in fried chicken”
I think the fact that The Bank Job is based on a true story makes it more intriguing then it possibly should. As a whole, the film is pretty standard fare for the genre, a bunch of amateurs attempting a huge heist, government conspiracies behind it all, secrets at every turn, and of course the romantic angle of two lovers who can never be together. Really the fact that it is true shouldn’t make a difference, but for some reason it does. Honestly, the plot of a bank heist to get compromising photos of a Royal might be the only thing true onscreen, the rest might be pure Hollywood. Either way, it’s a fun ride and worth watching if you enjoy a nice caper and can look past the usual problems that most filmmakers today ask you to.
As an audience member, we are privy to three sides: the British end trying to keep all ties broken yet setting up an illegal operation to rob a safety deposit box; Michael X’s end with other nefarious characters using blackmail to stay out of jail and corrupt cops to run the city of London; and the hapless crew of small-time criminals attempting a big score without knowing how big it actually is. I believe that Saffron Burrows is the true star of the film, playing all sides to make sure everything goes as planned. Her role has the biggest stake. She is blackmailed with freedom from drug charges to get a gang together, she is thrust back into the life of an unavailable childhood crush, and she must come to grips with the trouble she is hiding from those she cares about while the ones playing her watch it all happen from afar. Burrows handles it all very well and uses her looks to get what she wants from all parties involved.
The most intriguing part of the film has to be the British intelligence scenes. Watching the deception and debauchery on display and the running around to hide it all because they thought it was safe is interesting. One would hope people in their positions would take precautions or maybe not partake in those activities at all, but then we are talking about politicians. While that portion caught my attention on a more intellectual level, seeing how the plans unfolded, the gang of robbers was what made me want to continue watching. This ragtag bunch is funny, endearing, and well performed by all the actors. They are good friends and have fun doing this seemingly safe job.
Jason Statham is solid as always, leader of the crew, never allowing himself to be backed into a corner. He anticipates the fact that Burrows coming back after so long could be trouble and he makes sure to keep an eye on her activities. Even with that, though, he stays on task and plays the good family man—well as much as one can when you are in debt to larger criminals then yourself and partake in illegal activities whenever they present themselves. Also, no one does the cold stare of disgust like Statham when one of his friends does something stupid…it is his trademark expression. The others add some nice flair too. Daniel Mays, who I enjoyed in a very small role last year with Atonement, is great comic relief and his interactions with the third of the friends, Stephen Campbell Moore, is always entertaining. James Faulkner is also a lot of fun as the con man front of the crime. Being so much older than the others, yet having the same sensibilities as them, hidden behind his play’s exterior of a cultured gentleman, is great.
My one real gripe overall is with the ending. Not the way it ends necessarily, but how all the characters go about their activities. You know what is coming from the get-go; there is no way it will all go without a hitch, where would the intrigue be with that? I like how it all played out, I liked all the double-crossings and deal makings, however, when the crap hits the proverbial fan, all involved seem to take it in stride way too easily. I mean people are dying, getting tortured, and risking arrest, yet all our “heroes” just act calm and collected as they plan a way to outsmart MI-6. Honestly, these guys should be shaking in their boots. But it is a film, and that attitude allows it to end nicely and quickly once the heist is complete, so I don’t put too much stock into the misstep. The film still ends up being entertaining and, as a bit of historical escapism, succeeds.
The Bank Job 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
ps. the poster is kickass vintage style