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Blockbuster Tuesday: The Italian Job


Tuesday October 13th at 8.30pm

The Italian Job

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham, Seth Green

Director: F Gary Gray

Mark Whalberg and Charlize Theron star in this hit action/comedy/heist/thriller inspired by the Michael Caine/Benny Hill classic.

The film opens with the titular job, the mildly elaborate thieving of a safe full of gold in Venice. We are introduced to "the crew": leader and planner Charlie Croker (Wahlberg); old school crook on his last job of course (and father figure to Charlie) John Bridger (Donald Sutherland); wheel man Handsome Rob (Jason Statham from Snatch and The Transporter); tech guy Lyle (Seth Green from Buffy and Austin Powers); explosives expert Left Ear (rapper/actor Mos Def) and Steve (Edward Norton), whose specialty is appears to be scowling menacingly.

When a betrayal from within (no prizes for guessing by whom) robs the crew of their spoils and leaves Bridger dead, they retreat into the underworld to plan their revenge.

A year later, Croker hooks up with Bridger's bitter daughter Stella (Charlize Theron), who just happens to be a safe cracker, and along with the rest of the crew they set about plotting an elaborate heist to steal back their gold. When their original plan is disrupted, they are forced to improvise and use Lyle's skills to engineer a massive traffic jam in downtown Los Angeles while using Mini Coopers to dart about the sidewalks and subway tunnels.

In an American summer of over inflated mega flops, The Italian Job was a modest success, actually generating positive word of mouth.

It's not that hard to see why - while the film is by no means a classic, there's something quite appealing about is relative modesty - it's a lo-fi blockbuster. It has no pretensions beyond being a fun caper movie, and it more or less fulfils that goal.

The Italian Job takes definite tonal inspiration from Ocean's Eleven, but it doesn't ooze smugness like the latter film. The car stunts are not completely over the top, and actually are stunts, as opposed to gratuitous 2 Fast 2 Furious-esque CGI.

Wahlberg is little more than functional, but the supporting cast more than picks up the slack. Green gets most of the laughs, and it's nice to see he's finally found a decent role outside the Austin Powers franchise to showcase his considerable comic talents. Statham also shines as the charming Handsome Rob, and his scenes with Green provide most of the film's comic highlights.

Edward Norton's performance is much fun also. The actor has made no secret of the fact that he didn't want to make this film, and is only in it to fulfil an outstanding contractual obligation to Paramount. This really comes through in the film - he seems pissed totally off to be there! But it works for the character, he's one of the most snivelling, hateable villains in a while, which only helps the viewer root more for the "getting even" storyline.

Mos Def works well in his first major mainstream film (he has since appeared in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy), and provides an intelligent alternative to traditional gangster rapper roles. Theron is her usual luminescent self, and if anything seems a little out of place among the scruffy thieves.

Save for the fact that both films contain heists involving minis and engineered traffic jams, there isn't a hell of a lot of common ground between this film and the 1969 original. So no Benny Hill in this one then.

A sequel, The Brazilian job, is in the planning stages.

 


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