The Bank Job: Layered Heist Flick Is a Winner!

The Bank Job Poster 

Beyond the usual components of the typical heist flick [gathering the team; making the plans; dealing with unforeseen circumstances], The Bank Job pulls off the enviable stunt of dealing with four layers of prying eyes on the way to its unusually inventive conclusion – and making its ‘70s time period feel right.

Terry Leather [Jason Statham] is a former lower-class villain who has gotten his life together, set up shop as dealer of quality cars and married and started a family. Although he was never the sort to go for the big score, a seemingly chance encounter with an ex, Martine Love [Saffron Burrows],  leads to his thinking about taking on a bank job of epic [for him] proportion – a job that should, in theory, be foolproof.

Naturally, Terry’s team puts this to the test. The idea is to tunnel under the bank vault from a closed shop two doors over [and what’s up with all the tunnelling in British heist flicks? Is it some kind of national fetish or something?]. If they’ve planned it right, they’ll come up in the room that contains the bank’s safety deposit boxes – filled with stuff [gems, money, ledgers, and such] that no one will be willing to identify [otherwise, why have it in a box that even the bank’s management can’t open?].

Of course, there’s stuff Terry doesn’t know – and Martine does. The contents of box 1818 – its connection to a phoney Black Power scammer and the part it plays in holding the Royal Family [gasp!] on the brink of scandal; the secret ledger of a local porn king [played without a hint of iron by David Suchet] that logs his payoffs to corrupt coppers, and even how Martine really came up with this scheme – all of these things are unknown to Terry.

Jason Statham & Daniel May tunneling

The end result is a bank job where the thieves are being watched by MI5 [or 6, nobody seems able to tell the two apart]; a ham radio operator intercepts communications between the team and their lookout [walkie-talkies and ham radios are the extent of the period’s cutting edge technology], and notifies the police. Then you have the porn king and the Black Power guy [who’s also suspected of several murders] all applying pressure from other directions.

Given the lack of hi-tech equipment, the X-factor that puts Terry and Martine’s plan – the ham radio – in danger is such a perfect note… and since the film is loosely based on the robbery of a bank on Baker Street [shades of Sherlock Holmes, eh, wot?], a robbery in which the money was never recovered and no one was ever charged, the way things play out in The Bank Job could actually be what happened!

Jason Statham & Saffron Burrows

That The Bank Job is such a lovely, layered piece of work can be attributed, in part, to the scriptwriting team of Dick Clement [The Commitments, Lovejoy] and Ian La Franais [Spender, Lovejoy], who are especially skilled at writing scamps and rascals. The rest of the blame lies with director Roger Donaldson [Species, The World’s Fastest Indian], who knew that this piece was as much about the characters and the layers of the piece and kept the pacing back a bit from what one expects in a heist flick.

The result is a film that takes a bizarre historical situation and imagines how it might have played – at a pace that fits its ‘70s timeframe [though there are a few places where Donaldson could have picked things up a tad, the film’s pace is mostly perfect] and its ragtag team of thieves. It’s worth noting that Statham gives his best performance since Snatch and makes one wonder why he isn’t an A-list presence – at least in action and suspense movies.

Final Grade: B+

1 Comment

  1. Wow I really enjoyed this movie. I think it’s Jason Statham first great movie since he did Lock Stock… and Snatch. Good to see him out of the mindless action that he has been doing since…

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