Friday, 8 May 2009

The Bank Job

Lowdown: Back in early seventies’ London, daddy was a bank robber (but he never hurt nobody).
When one is going to watch a film starring John Statham, one would normally expect a Transporter like experience: lots of action scenes so silly they're good. The Bank Job, however, is not that type of film; it’s actually a serious thriller. Don’t get me wrong, though: I was never disappointed by The Bank Job. Not in the least. After all, how can a movie featuring a naked woman in its very first frame ever go wrong?
Set in early seventies’ London, The Bank Job tells the story of a bunch of honest thieves that go on and commit one of England’s biggest robberies ever (in case you didn’t guess it yet, they rob a bank). The trick is with their description as “honest”: you see, they’re not your average criminals. Unlike proper criminals, plenty of which are featured in the film for comparison, they’re not violent; unlike most of the police featured in the film, they’re not corrupt. No, our guys have a good sense of ethics on them, so much so that if you don’t really think about what they are doing you won’t notice they’re actually doing something that is obviously morally wrong. Which probably means the movie does a good job in developing characters you identify with and care about.
The main reason for us thinking of the robbers as the good guys is to do with the setting. Our robbers are enticed to go and perform the robbery by England’s MI5/MI6, who wish to put their hands on some incriminating evidence located in the bank’s vaults. Their way of getting those coveted items is to cheat a bunch of criminals into breaking the bank’s defences and getting them the goods. So you see, our thieves have been tricked into committing this robbery.
Premises aside, The Bank is not more than a detailed account of the robbery’s preparation, execution and aftermath (including dealing with fellow, but nasty, criminals). Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a thrill; there is not a boring moment in its close to two hours duration. What The Bank Job does provide is a look at the seedy nature of British society and an opinion on the level of corruptness that is hidden behind the appearance of tradition and high class; if you ask The Bank Job, it's our criminals that are the decent fellows of society and the ruling classes that are the real criminals. It is worth mentioning at this point that The Bank Job claims to be based on real events; however, a short documentary Blu-ray supplemental providing the real story’s account makes it pretty clear that other than the robbery’s basic premises, the film is very reliant on the script writer’s imagination.
The Bank Job does do its best to give that good old seventies feeling. Everyone has a moustache and looks like they came out of an old porn flick (or that Sabotage video clip), and the sets and the looks are very well matched. Authenticity is also in the acting and the language, all very (but very) cockney. There is not a sentence that passes by without the use of very British English, to the point the viewer – even the British viewer – will get their knickers in a twist. It definitely felt like they were overdoing it a bit, but it didn’t bother me even when the subtitles weren’t enough to understand what gov was saying there.
While there is violence in the film and a sense of sexual liberalism as befits the period (i.e., liberal use of nudity – hooray!), it is interesting to note The Bank Job is not an action film. Statham does not kick ass in this one, relegating himself to just looking tough with his cool piercing look and unshaved face coupled with his token boldness. The guy he portrays is a macho, no doubt about it, but Niko Bellic would have kicked his ass (and let me say the movie’s premises would not have been out of place in a the Grand Theft Auto world Niko comes from).
Last, but not least: The Bank Job features an old time favorite actor of mine, Peter Bowles, whom I remember fondly from the TV series The Bounder. It was good to see him again after so many years!
Worst scene: Don’t get me wrong, The Bank Job is a very good film; it’s just that there’s this one scene that sticks out because it’s the only one where you think “right, luv, that was as likely as me winning the lottery tomorrow when I didn’t even fill the bloody form up”. It’s a scene where the police arrive at the scene of the robbery while the robbery is taking place but our heroes do not get caught just because one of them drops something he shouldn’t have dropped in the first place. Too convenient to be credible, but my point is actually that this is the only un-credible bit of an otherwise credible film despite its numerous plot twists.
Technical assessment: The will to give the movie that “look of the seventies” with everything looking brown or dark red means that picture quality is not as good as it could have been. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is good but not half as aggressive as I expected it to be (then again, I expected action and got a thriller).
Overall: Good, simple, and extremely effective. 4 out of 5 stars.

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