Film review: A study of criminal characters

2008-07-20 00:00

The end credits of this movie are the most profound part. It’s easy to miss when everyone is getting up and leaving. The text comes up on the screen and reads: “The names of characters in this film have been changed to protect the guilty.” There are no good guys in this movie, just different levels of bad guys.

The Bank Job is a 111-minute character study. Odd that Jason Statham (known for macho roles in Transporte and Cellular) is in the lead role, but his best performance was in Snatch, where he threw no punches and pulled no triggers. This is similar — he plays an ordinary married man called Terry, father of two, who sells cars. He is lured into a lucrative job that will allow him and his family to disappear from the dubious circles he’s been involved with.

In September 1971, a group of thieves tunnelled into the vault of a bank in London’s Baker Street and looted safe deposit boxes of cash and jewellery worth over three million pounds, plus a host of other important valuables. None of it was recovered. No one was ever arrested. The robbery made headlines for a few days and then disappeared — the result of a ‘D’ Notice (British government policy), gagging the press. This film is based on those events, and it’s an intriguing, brusque ride.

In many heist movies, like the Ocean’s franchise and The Italian Job, the plan to grab the loot is pretty convoluted. Not so here. It’s oddly simple: drill into the vault from underneath, grab the loot and hit the road. The film’s focus is on the characters, with Statham as the streetwise but flawed ringleader, who is the love interest of his ex-girlfriend Martine (Saffron Burrows), who in turn is the love interest of Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore). Comical ditz Dave (Daniel Mays), and con pro Guy (James Faulkner), make up the numbers and there’s plenty to keep the audience engaged.

Exactly how closely the film follows the actual events most people will never know. It’s somewhat grim in places and chilling in others, exploring the multi-faceted badness of the criminal underworld and the corruption in government. It’s not an awesome film, but for the most part, it’s a job well done.

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