Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’ve been a fan of the work of Australian director Roger Donaldson ever since I saw ‘No Way Out’ in high school and hell, I even didn’t even despise ‘Cocktail’ and that had nothing to do with the fact somehow he convinced somehow Elisabeth Shue to flash her boobies in that flick. A good twenty years after ‘Cocktail’ and numerous movies later Donaldson is behind the camera with one of those ‘based on a true story’ type movies in ‘The Bank Job’, a multi-character, multi-plot thread, multi twisty complicated caper flicks that those cats in Britain seem to just love to do.

Our little period piece opens in the Bahamas in 1970 where a couple of ladies and some dude are frolicking in the ocean naked, and then recess to the bedroom for some ménage-a-trios action while some voyeuristic cat with his little Kodak snaps pictures. Why is this relevant? Only because one of the women in the picture is a member of the Royal Family and the pictures have fallen into the scurrilous hands of the Black British radical Michael X (Peter De Jersey). Michael X is actually a drug dealing extortionist hiding behind radicalism and the government would like nothing better but to put him away but alas, with the explosive snapshots in his possession, he is virtually untouchable. Well the powers that be simply can’t have something like this hanging over their heads and armed with the knowledge that these photos are in a safe deposit box in Lloyds Bank of London, they dispatch MI:5 agent Tim Everett (Richard Lintern) to devise a plan, of which his superiors will claim no knowledge, to retrieve and liberate those snapshots.

Now it gets complicated. Terry Leather (Jason Stratham) is a used car lot owner with a checkered past and a crap load of debts who gets a visit from an old flame, former super model Martine Love (Saffron Burrows). She informs Terry about a possible lucrative bank job and that the old crew might want to dust off their recently retired criminal tendencies and jump on board. Terry and his crew have never done a bank job before

but it looks like such an easy slam dunk so they jump on board. What Terry doesn’t know is that Martine is having an affair with MI:5 agent Everett who is actually pulling the strings of this heist. The job goes reasonably well but the problem with safe deposit boxes is that people tend to keep more than cash and jewelry in those boxes. Occasionally violent pimps will keep ledgers of payoffs to coppers in those boxers, or perhaps a Madam will stash pictures and video of high level government officials in precarious positions in those boxes. Now Terry and his crew of happy criminals find themselves knee deep in the muck as they are getting attacked from every conceivable angle with very little chance of making out of this mess alive. But fortunately Terry is the resourceful sort who holds a few trump cards of his own and he’s going to have to play them in order to make it out of this unscathed.

Back dealing secret agents, duplicitous supermodels, murderous Black radicals, coppers on the take, black mailing madams, whoring royal princesses, a sophisticated pimp with a nasty means streak and a group of Bank Robbers, who amongst this rouge’s gallery are the good guys? This, my friends, is the classic British caper flick. After about five minutes of watching ‘The Bank Job’ I realized that I had better pay close attention because with all these disparate elements coming at us from all over and at a rapid pace it will become real easy get lost within the narrative, but the veteran Donaldson manages to keep us entangled in this reasonably complicated and complex narrative by keeping the characters interesting and maintaining quick rapid pace that keeps his flick from ever becoming staid or boring.

There are a lot of things working in the favor of this film which arguably is weighted more on the style scale than one of substance, and this would include the fantastic set design that transports us back to 1970’s London with its classic buildings, classic cars and quirky characters with their funny names. 1970’s London lives and breathes as a character all its own which lends an air of authenticity to this story ‘based on true events’. Admittedly with all of the branching story lines, numerous characters and multiple plot twists, the narrative becomes a bit unfocused and jumbled at times, and there is not much in the way of character development for any of the myriad of suspects that we are introduced to, but it matters little because I haven’t had this much fun with this many bad people since my Bachelor party.

As far as the performances go, Jason Stratham is pretty much a one note actor with his main dilemma in whatever role he takes being whether to speak in his natural voice or use his gruff American accent. Since he only plays one note he’s usually only as good as the symphony that uses that note. So in ‘Snatch’ he was great, where as in ‘Revolver’ he wasn’t so great. In the surprising ‘Cellular’ he was great while in terrible a ‘Dungeon Siege Tale’ he was not so great. As the lead in ‘The Bank Job’ the note he plays is quite pleasant along with a good performance from the always fetching Saffron Burrows, this is an ensemble piece that all the actors just take the roles they were given and seem to have a good time with it.

Hats off to Donaldson who took what could have been an overly wrought confusing mess of a film and constructed a overly wrought fun mess of a film that plays out with the best of the British caper flicks.

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