The Bank Job (2008)

reviewed by
Homer Yen


"The Bank Job" - Moderate Interest
by Homer Yen
(c) 2008

The experience of watching the heist-flick "The Bank Job" is like the experience you feel when going on a slow roller coaster. A lot should be happening, but the thrills are tempered. The energy that's inherent in this film never really manages to manifest itself.

The story is based on the true events of a daring bank robbery that took place back in 1971. The target was the vault of a Lloyds of London Bank, and the infiltrators made off with loot worth (in today's dollars) 5 million pounds. Nobody was ever arrested and none of the money was recovered. For three days after the event, newspapers vigorously reported on the story with more gusto than Brittany Spears's nervous breakdowns. However, on the 4th day, all coverage in all the newspapers ceased. Why was there a clamp down on the media outlets? Was there a conspiracy afoot?

The film attempts to offer its own explanation by using an informer's revelation on that unsolved crime. And, there are lots of juicy elements here that do make for a fun film. It stars Jason Statham as an endearing dad who always seems to have a hand in a bit of skullduggery. He thinks that he may have found an opportunity to start anew when a former love interest (Saffron Burrows) re-enters his life and tells him that the security system of a local bank has been temporarily turned off.

He assembles his crew to pull off the improbable caper. And, we are reminded of similar films like "Ocean's 11". The vault that they enter and the safe deposit boxes that they raid attract the attention and the ire of more than just the inept police force. Now in the mix are spies that work for the MI:6, a local crime lord, corrupt cops, and even a black extremist. With all of that, you'd hope that the film was more kinetic.

Oddly, what transpires on screen doesn't seem nearly as interesting as what it took to make the film happen. Reading a recent article on a British online newsite (www.guardian.co.uk), I learned that "the story will incriminate high-ranking police officers, the secret service, politicians and a prominent member of the royal family." After the robbery, a government gagging order, or D Notice, was imposed to prevent further coverage. There was actually a chance to catch the robbers as a ham radio operator intercepted transmissions between the lookout and the leader who was about to penetrate the vault. When the radio operator called the local police to report the crime, they dismissed him as a prankster and just advised him to tape record the conversation. The conversation, which was transcribed and broadcast on national radio at the time, furnished authentic dialogue for the screenplay.

However wasteful all of the cool film elements are, the film is still a serviceable yarn. Jason Statham, who seems just right for these roles, gets to act more and fight less. The dialogue is colorful, the level of pulp violence is fun, and there is that lingering aura of suspense as you hope that these robbers get away with it. It's just a shame that the story wasn't more memorably told.

Grade:        B-
S:        1 out of 3
L:        3 out of 3
V:        2 out of 3

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