Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Bank Job

I Am LegendWith a dearth of sci-fi or action blockbusters and animated features in the cinema at the moment, we were lured in to see The Bank Job, a movie of what is reputed to be a true story of a bank heist gone wrong. Here's the gist of the tale…
Set in 1971, the film tells of a British Secret Service operation, led by Miles Urquhart (Peter Bowles), to retrieve some compromising pictures of a certain royal princess from the safety deposit box of black revolutionary activist Michael X (Peter De Jersey). Michael had been using the photographs as insurance against any interference in his drug-dealing and prostitution rackets by the law so no-one could touch him and if they were made public, the scandal would affect the royal family.

Certain security details of the bank were leaked by a member of MI6 through his lover Martine (Saffron Burrows) to a shady gang of small-time crooks led by Terry Leather (Jason Statham). The plan being to get the crooks to rob the bank for them and if anything goes wrong, it can't be traced back to H.M. Government. Of course, if the heist is successful, then all they need to do is waylay the thieves, relieve them of the goods and then clean up any loose ends.

Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, a pair more known for their TV comedy scripts, you might think that this would be a bit of a laugh. Well, it isn't! There are a few humourous moments in there but there are also some pretty violent bits as well. The basis of the story is that, in September 1971, thieves tunneled into the vault of a bank in London's Baker Street and looted safe deposit boxes of cash and jewelry worth over three million pounds. Nothing was ever recovered and no-one was ever arrested. The robbery made the news headlines for a few days and then suddenly disappeared from notice, the result of a government 'D' Notice.

That story is nicely developed up for the movie. Leather, a second-hand car lot owner, owes money to an underworld boss so he's under pressure to pay up or else. He's had a bit of a shady past and he and his mates have done a few small jobs now and then to get some extra cash but this is well out of their usual league. On top of that, Michael X was recommended that particular bank by Lew Vogel (David Suchet), a particularly nasty pornographer, who's kept a journal of all the pay-offs he's made to the local bent coppers and guess where he keeps it.

The film brings all these characters and their parts in the story together very well - the Secret Service, Michael X, Lew Vogel, Martine and Terry and his gang and, while it may not be an absolutely accurate re-telling of events, it's pretty entertaining. Jason Statham doesn't break into martial-arts mayhem at any point but proves that he can be a decent jobbing actor. Peter Bowles plays the upper-crust Whitehall slimebag Urquhart to a tee and David Suchet is excellent as crime boss Vogel. Peter De Jersey plays a suitably menacing Michael X and Saffron Burrows gives a decent performance as Martine, although neither have a lot of screen time.

Everything gels together well and the whole thing is played like a British movie from the seventies, including the slightly gritty film processing effect and limited colour palette. On the whole it's a decent gangster movie, which plods a bit at the start but, once the heist gets underway, it really gets going at a good pace. Well worth going to see!

Genre: Crime, Thriller.
My Rating: 8/10

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