The Italian Job


Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by:Donna Powers, Wayne Powers
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def, Edward Norton
Released: August 21, 2003
Grade: B-

Top marks for artistic merit.  Mark Wahlberg is super suave, Charlize Theron looks dazzling, Donald Sutherland is a class act, Seth Green is his comedic self and Edward Norton is the perfect bad guy.  The visuals are stunning, the car chase scenes climactic and the concept enthralling.  As stylish as it is, The Italian Job annoyed me for its continued insistence on following an implausible plot.

There’s two ways of looking at it I guess.  Those that enjoy the movie will see it as an unrealistic heist which is made deliberately for some fun.  Some critics have drawn parallels to the recent Ocean’s Eleven with its big cast and flashy approach.  If you take the other point of view, you’ll see the film as something which tries too hard to please.  It fits together too comfortably and I would prefer to see these characters work harder for their dollar.

The story begins in Venice, an elite team of criminals craftily steal a safe containing $35m in gold brick.  Charlie Croker (Wahlberg) leads the team under the watchful eye of the retiring John Bridger (Sutherland).  Joining them are tough guy Rob (Statham), computer geek Kyle (Green), bomb maker Left Ear (Def) and newcomer Steve (Norton).  The robbery goes to plan but this movie is about revenge.  The revenge sought when Steve shoots John and takes the gold for himself.

It took the team twelve months to find Steve but they’ve tracked him to Los Angeles where is now lives in a mansion guarded by an elaborate security system.  It would be easy to shoot him dead but that’s not what they’re after.  They just want to see the look on his face when they steal the gold back from him.  Helping them this time is John’s daughter, Stella (Bridger), an expert in safe cracking whose resources will be invaluable.

The idea is nothing new and you may have already heard it before.  I am yet to see the original but this film is adapted from a 1969 release starring Michael Caine.  This film is set in the modern era but there are a few throwbacks to the 60s – for example when mini-minors are used as getaway vehicles.  32-year-old director F. Gary Gray (A Man Apart, The Negotiator) would have had a blast shooting the elaborate chase sequences and the $100m U.S. box-office is proof audience have liked it too.

Now’s not the appropriate time to knit-pick through all the small plot details that left me frustrated.  In doing so I’d probably destroy most of the enjoyment you’re likely to take away.  I’m probably being petty.  Any movie with Edward Norton can’t be bad.  His track record is unequalled.  Ah, maybe I’ll go see it again…