“The Bank Job”

Taut, economical and fast-moving, Roger Donaldson‘s The Bank Job (Lionsgate, 3.7) is the best heist film I’ve seen in a long while. I don’t want to blow a gasket over this thing because it’s just a good British popcorn film, but entertainments of this sort — tight, tough, well-honed — are few and far between.

I’m starting to think it’s Donaldson’s best film since (no exaggeration) No Way Out. And by my sights it’s the first quality film that Jason Statham‘s ever made. Sometimes I think he’s the new Steve McQueen and sometimes not, but now I finally respect the guy.
The film is based on a real rip-off that happened in London in 1971, known as the “walkie-talkie robbery.” The bizarre distinction was that MI5 (i.e., high-level spooks) planned and monitored it from start to finish in order to recover compromising photos of one of the royals that were being held by a criminal in a safety deposit box in a Lloyd’s Bank.
Their agent is Saffron Burrows‘ Martine, who’s trying to escape a drug-smuggling rap. She persuades Statham’s Terry, a car dealer with gambling debts, to get a small team together to break into a vault of safety-deposit boxes and take the cash and jewels. Half of the film is about the initial job, the other half about the robbers trying not to get stepped on due to having found evidence of police corruption in one of the boxes, and because of some other compromising photos that certain higher-ups want destroyed. It’s all turns messy but also shifty and suspenseful.

Roger Donaldson, Jason Statham

For my money The Bank Job is much better than any of the Ocean’s films because it’s more focused and down-to-it, and without the smirk or the attitude. It doesn’t have the tragic arc of Rififi or The Asphalt Jungle, or the charm of Big Deal on Madonna Street or Topkapi, or the dark undercurrents in Sexy Beast…but it’s got an extra layer of fascination because it’s all more or less true.
I’d say it’s somewhere in the realm of The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, The Great Train Robbery and David Mamet‘s Heist. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it honors the trappings and then some.
Special credit is due to screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais for keeping the dialogue straight and smart and always keeping the audience abreast. The standouts among the first-rate case are David Suchet (wearing a gray-haired wig), Peter Bowles, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner, Alki David, Michael Jibson and Richard Lintern.
The Bank Job is going right on my Best of 2008 list. That’s obviously not saying much at this time of year, but for anyone with a liking for well-oiled machines this is a no-lose proposition.

26 thoughts on ““The Bank Job”

  1. “I’m starting to think it’s Donaldson’s best film since (no exaggeration) No Way Out.”
    Wow. Better than White Sands?
    “For my money The Bank Job is much better than any of the Ocean’s films because it’s more focused and down-to-it, and without the smirk or the attitude.”
    Uh…you don’t really think the Ocean’s films were primarily about the heists do you? Well, maybe the last one was and that’s probably why it’s the weakest of the three.

  2. Can’t wait for this flick, I had a feeling about this one for some reason.
    13 Days was pretty fucking good too I thought. No Way Out is certainly well done, and even though it lost itself at the end I enjoyed much of The Recruit.
    Statham was great in Crank but he pretty much plays the same guy over and over…which is fine…he does this thing really well. But it looks like he gets to do more than just grunt and scowl in The Bank Job.

  3. Better than 13 Days?
    Dante’s Peak?
    Just kidding about the last three. Wanted to see if you were paying attention! :)
    I liked Statham in The Italian Job.

  4. Yes, this makes me happy. Now I really can’t wait to see this. I always liked Donaldson, and even though his choice of material isn’t always the best Statham is always entertaining. (Soft spot for the Transporter flicks and Crank. Can’t wait for Crank 2, to be honest).

  5. “The World’s Fastest Indian” was one of the top
    ten films of 2005, “The Recruit” was a very nice
    genre piece, “The Bounty” was the best filmed
    version of that story, “No Way Out” was decent,
    “Dante’s Peak” was pretty good, “Thirteen Days”
    contained very strong performances, yet was
    somewhat dry. Not to mention his New Zealand
    films, which are all very good. I think Roger
    Donaldson is one of the most underrated guys out
    there. He needs do to a Bond film, big time!!!

  6. “personally, I thought it was derivative drivel..but between you and Roeper, it’s turning into overated derivative drivel.”

    haha! i didn’t care much for it. it held my attention but that’s about it. doesn’t touch ’13 days’ or ‘no way out.’ statham delivers pretty much the same performance he always delivers. i’ve always enjoyed it, so no complaints. but still…

  7. Saw it too. Found it to be thorougly mediocre. Jeff is right that it’s like OCEAN’S 11 without the attitude, which just makes it the same old heist flick, with no personality. Not a good thing!

  8. “personally, I thought it was derivative drivel..but between you and Roeper, it’s turning into overated derivative drivel”
    Personally, I hate people that use terms like “derivative drivel”. Fucking hate them.

  9. I totally agree. It’s derivative drivel.
    Statham was great in Lock, Stock..and has slummed it since although Crank was surprisingly entertaining-yet-derivative-drivel.
    Don’t know if he has McQueen’s chops though..

  10. Statham’s best work was in Collateral. All 15 seconds of it.
    Actually, I love the guy, but only because he was a freakin’ great interview. Statham and Guy Ritchie over beers at an Atlanta pub for 45 minutes, and they had obviously already been there awhile. (For Lock, Stock, before either one of them would be recognized by anybody).

  11. Donaldson is an underrated director. Finally caught The World’s Fastest Indian the other night and was surprised at how good it was. Why wasn’t Anthony Hopkins given due consideration for Best Actor that year? A small film, true, but one that had a lot going for it, not the least of which was real warmth and just the right amount of sweetness. It never felt cloying.

  12. I want to believe Statham produced some quality work because I, unfortunately, watched “Chaos” the other night and it literally made me want to punch him in his bald head – despite the fact he would school me in a second and break my twig of a body over his leg. But, after watching that ass sandwich of a film, dammit, I’d have to try.

  13. Personally, I hate people that use terms like “derivative drivel”. Fucking hate them.
    And the term “tripe.” They have no friends.

  14. “… it’s the first quality film that Jason Statham’s ever made.”
    Snatch (basically a remake of Lock Stock) was surprisingly worthwhile. One of the surprises was that it featured one of Brad Pitt’s best performances pre-Jesse James.

  15. “I loved SMASH PALACE. It’s got a great fucking scene in it. A scene with fucking.”
    I’ve never forgotten that scene the one time I saw it on HBO back in the day.

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