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Roger Donaldson is one of these guys that makes sturdy movies. Not the kind of pictures that anyone is likely to remember in 30 years, but may pop up in the occasional genre revival series or film class. You know, Species as part of a sci-fi fest; Cocktail in a 80s retrospective or a Tom Cruise survey; Thriteen Days – political films. It’s safe to say The Bank Job could very well find its way into a series showcasing the heist film. It’s built with at least as much integrity as the bank the villains in the movie rob.
Somewhere between Spike Lee’s Inside Man and Jules Dassin’s Rififi is where The Bank Job exists. The politics that propel Spike’s film are blended with Dassin’s commitment to the nuts and bolts of bank robbing. On a narrative level, that’s where The Bank Job sits. It ably assembles a rag tag team of second-rate criminals, and dumps them into a political cover up they know nothing about.
As far as Jason Statham and his gang are concerned, they’ve happened upon a too-good-to-be-true heist scenario. The only problem is Statham’s Terry Leather is smarter than those who would wish to set him and his boys up, but just barely, and Donaldson takes advantage of this slim knowledge gap, crafting numerous moments of tension and suspense. The increasingly hot Saffron Burrows contributes generously to the emotional and sexual tension throughout the film, as Statham’s ex-lover and present-partner in crime.
On a formal level, the film most resembles Carol Reed’s The Third Man, which, fittingly, is also a film showcasing the junction where crime and political intrigue meet. The first 30 or 40 minutes of the film are shot in canted angles, nothing is center framed, nothing is balanced, everything, every shot, every composition, every camera movement is tilted one way or another. And not in an over the top way that calls attention to itself. Rather, it just looks sloppy, until it starts to coalesce into a style and by that time one is so invested in the story that canted angles and “sloppy” camera work are no longer of any concern.
Statham got his start as part of Guy Ritchie’s acting troupe, with roles in both Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Some people really like those Guy Ritchie pics. Over here, I smell garbage. But Statham got the hell out of there and went on to be involved in a string of films a lot of people saw, but not everyone. Ghosts of Mars. Saw it. Liked it. Was Statham in that? Yes. But Ice Cube and Natasha Hedridge’s chemistry dominated that movie, along with John Carpenter’s uncanny mastery of the exploitation genre. This is Statham’s lot in a handful of other reputable pics, like Collateral and The Italian Job. Was he in those…? Yes. But who remembers?
Somehow Statham found himself the star of an action franchise – the Transporter films – becoming something of an icon to a smattering of action fans around the globe. Not one to turn down the smut, Statham headlined Crank, a movie so bonkers I’m going to pass on trying to single out one great moment in a film packed with epic action set-pieces. But this is where Statham really showed he had the physical and emotional power to really carry a film, because let’s face it, the shtick-heavy Transporter films could have starred almost anyone and worked (or not worked).
Either way, Statham proved himself an actor worthy of admittance to one of Hollywood’s smallest, most elite clubs: The Real Man Club. Russell Crowe. Daniel Craig. Clive Owen. For some reason all these dudes are British or Australian. I guess they don’t make Men in the States anymore. (Maybe, possibly, I’d give Bruce Willis a pass here). The irony is, all these guys want to be Steve McQueen, who is as American as Cowboys and Indians.
Well, The Bank Job rests squarely on the shoulders of Statham, and he carries it with no noticeable effort. The film’s greatest drawback is that the post script at the end of the film – informing viewers about all the shit that went down after the last scene shown on screen – is almost as long as the movie proper. I would have preferred if Statham just sat in a pub with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and read the title cards. He is that powerful a screen presence, he could be filmed reading, and it would work.