As far as directors go, Richard Donaldson has been about as uneven in the quality of his work as chemist in a crystal meth lab with a bad case of Tourette’s. Sometimes you get a quality hit, and sometimes that shit just blows up in your face.
Thankfully, The Bank Job echoes the perfectly-paced suspense of No Way Out and the sexy (read: bare-breasted) fun of Species. Cadillac Man, Dante’s Peak, and The Getaway are all distant memories.
Jason Statham stars as a small-time crook in early-1970s London convinced by his smashingly-attractive ex-flame (played by Saffron Burrows) to lead a small gang of inexperienced thieves to break into a bank vault, supposedly to take a killer haul of loot from the bank’s safety deposit boxes.
The execution of the titular crime–which occupies the action of the movie’s first half–manifests as a heist film that I’d venture to call “good natured.” Innocuous witticisms from a likable cast pepper the script, an enjoyable sense of adventure permeates the scenes, and the movie maintains a quick pace and healthy level of suspense without a hint of foreboding or dread.
But then the The Bank Job‘s personality takes a darker turn than David Hasselhoff after a late-night bender and a trip to Wendy’s. And you know what? It still works.
Turns out that British secret agents from MI6 have been manipulating the heist from the get-go to recover from the vault tawdry photos of all sorts of Royals and high-ranking politicians. Unfortunately for Statham and his amateurish crew, they also accidentally confiscate from the safety deposit boxes evidence that incriminates local corrupt police, drug lords, and smut-peddling gangsters.
Yeah. Out of the frying pan and into the fryer, and all that. So begins the deadly intrigue, torture, and murder, followed by a satisfying ending accompanied by a sensation of, “Holy shit, I can’t believe that was a true story!”
The Bank Job wastes no time jumping into the story with expositional dialogue and character introductions… because there’s a lot to get to. The movie supports a large ensemble cast and several interwoven storylines, so most scenes serve to fill the plot and keep things moving forward.
But that’s where you find the brilliance of the film. The Bank Job stays consistently fast-paced and full… never rushed and bloated.
I credit the director Donaldson for making it so easy to keep track of all the characters and the plot developments, in spite of everything going on and all the players.
On the other hand, the dialogue–while occasionally clever and always flavored by delightful Britishisms like “skull duggery,” “villains,” and “mutton dagger” (that’s British for wang, people)–sometimes distracts in that way that obviously-expository dialogue does.
But a healthy dose of expository dialogue is a small price to pay for a film that otherwise delivers entertainment so effectively, and–blessedly–without trying too hard. Too many contemporary action, suspense, and heist films try to crank up their appeal with overly-stylish dialogue and tricky camera work. (I’m looking at you with an evil eye and a raised eyebrow, Guy Ritchie.) Not so, here. The Bank Job wins on storytelling.
Oh, except for 30 very-disjointed seconds when Statham goes all Transporter on us. But a little over-the-top martial arts action never hurt anybody.
Especially after you’ve been mollified by all the T&A. Seriously. Did I mention the bare breasts to you already? Hoo-wah.
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