By Marc S. Sanders
F Gary Gray’s 2003 remake of The Italian Job is crackling with cool and sleek film coverage. It is a blend of wit and fast paced action delivering a solid heist thriller. The cast is terrific as well.
Donald Sutherland plays John Bridger, a near retired master thief and safe cracker. He is ready for one last job with his protégé, Charlie, played by Mark Wahlberg. They assemble a team specializing in different skills like Left Ear, played by Mos Def, who overlooks explosives, Lyle or “Napster”, Seth Green, as a computer hacker, and “Handsome Rob,” Jason Statham, the getaway driver. With another member named Steve (yeah, he’s just called…ahem…Steve) played by Edward Norton, they successfully rip off a safe containing $35 million in gold bars from a home located off the straits of Venice, Italy. However, Steve betrays the team leaving them for dead.
Jump to a year later and the team ventures out to Los Angeles with Stella (Charlize Theron), another safe cracker and daughter to John. They have an opportunity to even the score with Steve while also collecting what’s left of the gold bars. Early on, an idea is conceived to use light weight, speedy MINI Coopers to get in and haul away the booty. However, soon they learn that it’s not so easy to just take it from Steve’s house. They will have to apprehend the gold while in transit.
There’s nothing overly special about The Italian Job. I don’t think Gray was looking to achieve an iconic classic. He just made a solid caper flick that’s pure fun. Sure, the thieves would likely get busted. No, the timing of everything from sabotaging the downtown traffic lights and exploding a precise hole in the street for an armored car to fall through would never occur so perfectly. Who cares? This film is a pitch perfect dance in car chase choreography where we get a kick out of watching sporty little red, white and blue MINIs careen through a subway system, down public staircases and through cylindrical tunnels. It’s all done to get your heart racing.
The players are fun but they aren’t putting in much dimension. I doubt they did much research on the specialized skills their respective characters possess. Maybe Theron researched how to crack a safe. She amps up some nail biting in those sequences as Gray edits between high speed motorcycles approaching while she’s quietly trying to concentrate on the lock’s combination.
There are some cute inside jokes. The best being that Lyle insists he is the inventor of Napster (a little dated by now), and the idea was stolen from him by Sean Parker. The real Sean Parker makes a quick cameo as that scene is told in flashback. Seth Green is quite funny in a nerdy kind of way.
I like the cast. Norton plays a good jerk for villain; a real “Frank Burns.” I appreciate the story behind his character. Early on before he betrays the team, each member shares what they are going to spend their money on. Later, it’s revealed that Steve just used what he ripped off to buy everything the other guys had in mind. He’s a killer and he’s a jerk, but he’s also a guy with no imagination or creativity. I like that angle for a bad guy. He’s only just so much of a genius.
The Italian Job is a fun film that is never too intense, and offers great surprises in the step-by-step process of how to pull off a cinematic heist. If anything, it’ll make you wanna buy a MINI Cooper. I came…THIS CLOSE one time!