Again, I don’t want to spoil too much of the fun to be had with THE BANK JOB. One of the reasons why I had such a blast with this flick was that I didn’t know all of the particulars. The film starts off in sexy, 70’s fashion, with a couple of topless women frolicking in crystal clear ocean water, at some unnamed resort area. The ladies, and their male friend, move to a nearby bungalow, for a more private encounter. What the three of them don’t realize is that there is someone snapping some incriminating photographs from outside their window. What the audience doesn’t initially realize is that one of the women enjoying the tryst happens to be British royalty. And it doesn’t help matters that the individual taking those photographs happens to be connected to the ruthless Black power mover-and-shaker Michael X (a sneering, vicious Peter De Jersey). The photos will serve as leverage if he ever gets into trouble with the British government.
Cut to London. Terry Leather (Statham) runs an auto-body shop with a couple of ex-goons. Leather is no stranger to trouble and local harassment from an assortment of petty gangsters and crooked cops. It’s clear that he may have had some run-ins with the law earlier in life. Before long, his gorgeous old-flame/friend Martine, a part-time model, shows up at his shop with a proposition. She’s met some people who want to rob a bank in downtown London She asks Terry to put together a team in order to take the bank. There are some specifics to the case that I will allow you to discover on your own, but I will concede that Martine may or may not be being 100% truthful with all of the facts. And the way a porn kingpin, the British secret intelligence, local cops, a high-class brothel, dirty politicians, and a variety of naked women figure into the plot are also developments that should be left for your discovery. Let’s just say that in recent memory, I can’t remember a film that juggled so many plot lines yet so coherently, and so excitingly, while never losing sight of the tight story at its core. Also, in reference to the on-screen nudity, I must say how refreshing it was to actually see an adult-minded picture that wasn’t shy about sexuality and had some fun in this realm. It was also rather nice to see a heist film where I actually believed the heist that was going on! How many times have we seen over-the-top scenarios with an impossible heist in the middle of a ridiculous plot? As much as I enjoyed the OCEANS movies, the heists in the middle of them have been patently absurd. The fact that THE BANK JOB is based on real events makes it even juicier.
Statham gets a chance to actually prove that he can act in this film. While I have loved seeing him kick continuous bad-guy ass in movies like CRANK and THE TRANSPORTER series, it was great to see him play a real character, one with a back-story, vulnerabilities, and some level of stress. But never fear; Statham gets to flex his muscles at the end of THE BANK JOB, and because the ass-whooping that he throws is completely warranted by the plot, it felt all the more cathartic and exciting. My fear is that the relative disappointment in terms of box office that THE BANK JOB has pulled in thus far will discourage producers from giving Statham a chance to appear in more serious dramas. The deep ensemble cast, made up of lots of British character actors, seal the deal as well; there isn’t one wasted performance or actor in the entire bunch. Lines of dialogue crackle with authority all throughout the film. Burrows, who has more to do in the film than you might think considering her “hot-chick” character archetype, is mysterious, gorgeous, and dangerous; exactly what a femme fatale should be.
But to be honest, I can’t help but feel that the real star of THE BANK JOB is its director. Donaldson, a journeyman gun-for-hire if there ever was one, had a couple of big hits in the 80’s (NO WAY OUT and COCKTAIL, though the latter film was pretty lame as I recall). The 90’s weren’t as good for him. CADILLAC MAN, WHITE SANDS, and the unnecessary remake of Sam Peckinpah’s masterwork THE GETAWAY were all critical and commercial disappointments. Then came the sci-fi hit SPECIES, which while derivative beyond all belief, was a fun, effective B-movie that did some solid business, spawned a franchise, and introduced the world to Natasha Henstridge. Next came DANTE’S PEAK, the first of the two big-budget volcano movies; what a piece of stool that was (though I remember the special effects being terrific). Then in 2000, Donaldson busted out with the excellent political thriller 13 DAYS, which was a riveting look at the Cuban missile crisis. Rent the film on DVD if you’ve never seen it; I fear that not enough people have seen this terrific film. He followed up 13 DAYS with the more conventional spy film THE RECRUIT, which was passable entertainment, and then in 2005, he made the delightful Anthony Hopkins starrer THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN. Donaldson, always a solid technician who brings an unfussy style to his all of his films, seems to have been reinvigorated by the material in THE BANK JOB. He directs with an icy grip, never letting the busy plot spin out of control. And in tandem with his talented cinematographer Michael Coulter (LOVE ACTUALLY, NOTTING HILL), he brings a gritty, 70’s-style realism to the London surroundings and his muted color palette in general. The film is very evocative of its period, despite the limited budget.
If you’re looking for smart entertainment, a film that is sexy, dangerous, funny, and satisfying, you could do a lot worse than check out THE BANK JOB. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel and it’s not going to win awards. But for what it is, it’s just about perfect. And sometimes, all we need is a classy, unpretentious piece of entertainment like THE BANK JOB to remind us that there is life left in one of our more put-up genres. Donaldson has crafted a nifty film and I absolutely recommend that you check it out.