If you want a heist movie with class, you cast George Clooney and Brad Pitt and make a film along the lines of Ocean’s Thirteen (or any of the preceding ones). When you want a gritty, seedy heist movie, you hire the new action kid on the block, Jason Statham and end up with a flick like The Bank Job.
On the surface you might think that this movie is akin to one of his usual balls-to-the-wall action flicks like Crank or The Transporter, but it isn’t. Instead The Bank Job is a methodical telling of an unsolved and secrecy veiled 1971 bank robbery of the Baker Street branch of Lloyds Bank, in which thieves walked out with approximately Â£500,000. What makes the story worth telling is that once the gag order was lifted, it turned out the heist was orchestrated by the government, in an effort to cover-up indiscretions by members of the royal family.
Statham takes on the role of Terry Leather, a two-bit hustler who is down on his luck (owes cash to the local gangsters) and trying like hell to make ends meet via a quasi-legitimate living selling cars. Yet when he gets the “perfect” score dropped into his lap by his childhood friend Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) he can’t turn it down, even though he has serious reservations about it. His apprehension is warranted too because behind the scenes MI5, led by agent Tim Everett (Richard Lintern) is pulling the marionette strings. Everett’s goal is two-fold: retrieve the incriminating evidence located in the bank and silence Michael X (Peter De Jersey) permanently.
After this intriguing setup of corrupt officials and brazen criminals, The Bank Job begins to lose some of its steam rather quickly. Mostly it gets terribly slow in the middle and the story gets muddy and difficult to follow. Director Roger Donaldson finds himself shifting focus from the robbery and the accompanying sexual tension between Leather and Love to side stories of radical black revolutionist Michael X, porn kingpin Lew Vogel (David Suchet) and various government entities and back again. Indeed, it is a true story and all these facets play a role in the scheme, but a great deal of it could have and should have been filtered down before consumption.
That being said, it was still interesting to watch how the crime got pulled off. It was clear from the beginning these goons had no idea what they were doing – so much of their success relied on pure, unadulterated luck. Hell, even I know radio transmissions can be eavesdropped upon and that using a jackhammer at all hours of the day and night would raise some suspicions. I was curious however, if the movie took creative liberties with the ending and if so, how much. Sure some interpretation is expected when bringing a true story to the silver screen, but I couldn’t help but notice how convenient it was that all the loose ends tied themselves up into nice tight knot at the film’s climax.
So even though The Bank Job is a bit of letdown for me, it was still a step in the right direction for Statham — away from the malady that was In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and back towards the kind of movies I expect from him (he’s slated to star in Crank 2: High Voltage).