Words by Matt Poe
The Bank Job (2008)
Local thief Terry Leather is offered the heist of the century to break into one of London’s most prized vaults. While his eyes are set on cash and jewels, he soon finds other parties want something else.
Category: Thriller, Crime, Drama
Rated R for violence, strong language and nudity
Starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore and Richard Lintern
Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais/ Directed by Roger Donaldson
Step right up and get comfortable for another edition of Poe’s Picks. The warmer weather appears to finally be upon us, and as an unlicensed physician, I encourage you to get outside and reap its benefits. But remember, a healthy dose of Netflix here and there is always needed. When you couple it with a Poe’s Pick, like the one we’ve got on our hands today, you’ve got a match made in heaven. Again, this blog is for the people, demanded by the people.
It appears to me that I have begun to hit a bit of a crime movie streak here on the blog. I’ve always been one for a great whodunit film or heist movie, but who isn’t? There’s nothing like the rich payoff with these kinds of movies, when done effectively. So while I could watch crime movies for days, I’ll bring a little variety and change it up for next week’s blog, for you, dear reader; however, “The Bank Job,” I can assuredly say, has that type of payoff and is that type of movie. We don’t have any more grievances to air out, so strap on those water wings and let’s dive right in.
Set in 1971, the film is based on the true story of one of the greatest heists in Britain’s history. Like most films that have the disclaimer “based on a true story,” I encourage you to read the back story after watching it because you’ll find what did actually happen and what parts were added for film-making’s sake.
Terry Leather (Jason Statham) is a local thief running small-time crimes out of his car shop with a local crew, with one of his helpers being his long-time friend, and sometimes lover, Martine Love (Saffron Burrows). Terry owes some money to a local gangster because all small-time criminals in every crime movie ever made owe money to someone.
Obviously, he doesn’t have the funds when Lew Vogel’s (David Suchet) henchmen show up to let Terry know the clock is ticking rapidly. Meanwhile, Martine has made some connections high up in one of the British intelligence agencies, presumably MI5 or MI6. Something very valuable to them is stashed away in one of the vaults, and Tim Everett (Campbell Moore) persuades Martine to sway Terry to pull off the job involving breaking into one of London’s wealthiest fortresses.
The plan? Tim tells Martine that she and Terry’s crew can keep any valuables they want, so long as the agency gets a certain something from the vault that I dare not spoil. Easier said than done, and that’s all I’ll say for now. As I’ve mentioned many times here on Poe’s Picks, to spoil or reveal too much of a thriller is a cardinal sin. Don’t be friends with those people. No one likes those people.
“The Bank Job” works on almost all levels, and I found myself thoroughly captivated and on the edge of my seat. It has all the necessary elements to make a sexy crime caper. First, the cars and set pieces of 1970s London are kick-ass, along with the fashion and clothing boasted by each character. Great crime movies also require a plethora and variety of characters: some wacky, some sharp as a tack, some dull and some borderline insane. The supporting cast plays their roles effectively and convincingly. There’s too many to list, so I credit all of the actors involved.
Burrows is terrific as the beauty with a set of brains who can’t decide who she’d rather con, her old friend or the government of her majesty. But it’s action star Statham’s show here, and it’s great to see him in a role where he isn’t mindlessly running around beating the snot out of everything or everyone he crosses paths with. Make no mistake about it, this is Statham we’re talking about, so he still manages to kick some ass along the way, but he shows a much better range of emotion than he does in most of his films (that’s a compliment to him and the film.) While I still enjoy him as an action hero, I wish he’d do more films like this one because he has some considerable acting chops.
With all things considered, the best part of this film is its structure. I admit, the first few minutes of the film I was a bit lost because it jumped around places and time rather quickly. I even said to myself and out loud, “Did I miss something here?,” because of how fast the action gets rolling. In fact, and I don’t think I’m spoiling much here, the actual heist occurs about halfway through the film, and that is awesome. Too often heist films have the big caper at the end, and we only get about 10 minutes’ worth of consequences.
Not this time. When shit hits the fan, as it always does, we stick around long enough to see what will become of Terry and his crew, with some results more pleasant than others. And isn’t that what crime movies and crime in general are about? The hard part usually isn’t committing the crime itself but rather dealing with the aftermath when all hell breaks loose and the trust of those involved can deteriorate. “The Bank Job” is tense, sexy, smart, funny and shows how good an old school heist film can be. I hope I didn’t entice you to rob a bank, but if I did, please share the funds with me. I could use them.
Until next time.
In Good Films We Trust,
Matt “Roger Ebert wishes he was half the film critic I am” Poe