- Roger Donaldson
- Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Richard Lintern, Daniel Mays
- 110 min.
- Release Date
Inside The Bank Job, there’s a thrilling 90-minute heist caper, but that would-be movie is lost among too many subplots and too much time wasted on characters we care nothing about. If Guy Richie (Snatch) were behind the camera, perhaps the intriguing story would have backbone or connectivity when flashing back and forth between pointless filler. Instead, director Roger Donaldson (Dante’s Peak, Species) gives this movie as much style as star Jason Statham has range.
Our gruff-voiced, ever-stubbly, usually-martial-artsing-someone hero Statham (The Transporter, In the Name of the King) plays small-time crook Terry Leather, a seedy used car salesman working in 1971 London. His ex-co-villain Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) brings him a proposal: rob Lloyds Bank, which has a temporarily-down security system. And what better, more fluid area to sack than the safety deposit boxes, which contain untold riches kept by London’s elite. Indeed, also untold secrets.
But wait. Flashback to a year ago, to the pre-credits prologue, where a voyeur snaps dirty photos of Princess Margaret shagging random chums in the Caribbean. Government spy outfit MI5 (or is it MI6—not even the movie is sure) seeks to recover the photos to protect the throne’s honor. Except, in a safety deposit box the photos remain, kept there as a bargaining chip by England’s Malcolm X rip-off, a drug-running pimp named Michael X (Peter De Jersey), who avoids murder charges by clinging to them as a blackmail device. Agent Everett (Richard Lintern) contacts Martine and proposes she find some two-bit hoods to break into Lloyds Bank and steal them, and, in exchange, her drug smuggling charges will be overlooked. Enter the aforementioned Terry, and his group of low-flying goons.
Much of the ensuing robbery procedural contains the best parts of Ocean’s Eleven or The Score (though certainly avoids textbook accuracy like Rififi), taking us through details of the break-in. While they tunnel under the bank, their goofball lookout Eddie (Michael Jibson) has roofside seats, scoping out suspicious activity. Police inadvertently hear their back-and-forth Walkie-Talkie communications, sending out patrols to check every bank in the area, testing if the lookout will send warning. These moments are generally nerve-wracking, as our crooks, none-the-wiser that Scotland Yard is sort-of onto them, luck out again and again. Eventually, their efforts succeed, beginning a whole slew of new problems.
While the potential setup inspires, the movie’s follow-through is muddled by an overweighted script, determined to give every character his or her respective due. One subplot follows an undercover spy, Gale (Hattie Morahan), sent to recover Michael X’s photos by bedding his cohort extremist writer friend Hakim Jamal (Colin Salmon). And then there’s Lew Vogel (David Suchet), local pornographer and smut extraordinaire; his ledger detailing police payoffs, hidden away in his safety deposit box, concerns a number of top officials. Those higher-ups also sweat when a neighborhood Madame reveals her safety-deposit box containing their lewd dominatrix photos was ransacked by Terry’s gang. Meanwhile, Terry’s wife worries about her husband, but more so about Martine’s romantic intentions toward him; Agent Everett attempts to court Martine; Eddie just got married; and co-thief Dave has a gigantic penis. (I ask you, should any of these meanderings concern us, especially when they orbit around a perfectly entertaining bank robbery core?)
Donaldson directs rather blandly, as he always has. Nothing about his work stands out, therefore his oeuvre remains forgettable. With movies like The Recruit, Thirteen Days, and the similarly-themed The Getaway, his undistinguished mark will disappear from your mind two minutes after leaving the theater, whereas someone more auteuristic might have inscribed an admirable style into every scene (and perhaps deleted a few subplots from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’ script). And so, Donaldson laces his film with plenty of gratuitously topless women, spies, drugs, cash, and all those familiar caper elements we’ve seen in a dozen other (and better) heist movies, the transparent inflow of which frustrates.
Who knows how much of The Bank Job actually happened, despite the traditional, usually fallible tag “based on a true story” attaching itself to the production. For argument’s sake, let’s say every character was based on a real person. If so, this story requires some of Hollywood’s renowned rewriting of history. Cut some characters. Rethink including its dozen or so subplots. Streamline the film. Somewhere in here a good movie is dying to get out.