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The Bank Job

United Kingdom 2008
Directed by
Roger Donaldson
104 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Bank Job

It’s 1971 and deeply in debt car dealer and small-time London crook, Terry Leather and his dodgy cronies get offered a big score by Martine (Saffron Burrows), whose surname, Love, twins with Terry’s). Wanting to make a new start with his wife and small children Terry accepts the job. What he doesn’t know is that he has been set up by MI5 (or 6) to retrieve some photos and a diary that would create a major scandal for the Establishment if they ever became public.

Has Australian born director Roger Donaldson even heard of Guy Ritchie? Surely he must have as his lead actor Jason Statham had a significant presence in Ritchie’s benchmark heist film, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and its follow-up, Snatch (2000). Although the content of The Bank Job is very similar to those films – an East End setting, ruthless Cockney villains criss-crossing and double-crossing in a convoluted plot Donaldson seems to have been largely inspired by films such as Too Many Crooks (1959) and such like which he probably watched on television as a child. Indeed one scene which involves a typically dim-witted bobby checking the shop from which Statham and his mates are tunneling through to an adjacent Lloyds bank (“Are you using a jackhammer in there”. “Yes, we’ll try to keep it down” he is reassured and moves on) could have been lifted from that film.

However whilst the film might have succeeded if played as a straight-up caper comedy in the manner of the many Ealing Studios crowd-pleasers of the day, Donaldson’s film falls somewhere in between with many of the scenes coming across as self-parodic at best, mis-directed at worst.

Although apparently loosely based on, or more appropriately “inspired by”, real events with Princess Margaret being the royal whose raunchy sex life scandalized the nation The Bank Job is a typical crime caper movie that makes no attempt to plug into the historical context beyond the fun-living retro production design, art direction and so on which nicely capture the era.

Even so one will question many of the plot points. Why is the improbably gorgeous and tastefully coiffed Martine part of the tunneling crew? What made them think they could not only dig a tunnel into the bank overnight but come up in the right place (see Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks  (2000) and so on. Enough said (there is also a kind of sub-plot involving a British Black Power activist that is poorly integrated with the main narrative).

British to a fault, The Bank Job is so last century.




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