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The Bank Job

Highly Entertaining Heist Flick

In 1971, a daring bank heist of the Lloyd’s Bank on Baker Street in London netted the bank robbers more than 500,000 British pounds (approximately 3,000,000 pounds in today’s numbers). A ham radio operator overhead the bank heist in progress, but Scotland Yard failed to find the bank location in time. Lloyd’s Bank also held safe deposit boxes owned by a cross-section of London’s political players and members of the criminal underground. Four days of intense media coverage ended when the British government issued a gag order, a so-called “D-Notice", forbidding the press from continuing their coverage. Almost forty years later, questions about the Baker Street robbery remain unanswered. The Bank Job doesn’t so much try to answer these questions as use them as a springboard for an unexpectedly entertaining heist flick.

Terry (Jason Statham), a cash-strapped car dealer with underworld connections, gets a surprise visit from an old neighborhood friend-turned-supermodel, Martine (Saffron Burrows). Martine offers Terry the deal of a lifetime: inside information on a bank heist, thanks to her sometime lover, Tim Everett (Richard Lintern). Hesitant at first, Terry gives in, pulling in two of his mates, Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Dave (Daniel Mays), and rounding out the gang with reliable business associates, Guy Singer (James Faulkner) and Bambas (Alki David). As circumstances change, Terry decides to bring in his mechanic, Eddie (Michael Jibson), as a lookout.

With the exception of one or two obstacles, the heist goes according to plan. What Terry doesn’t know, however, is that powerful men on both sides of the law, including Lew Vogel (David Suchet), a nightclub owner and pornographer, Michael X (Peter De Jersey), a pimp and drug dealer turned revolutionary, and Sonia Bern (Sharon Maughan), a high-class madam, all used Lloyd’s Bank as a repository for potentially incriminating evidence against Scotland Yard, the Royal Family, and members of parliament. What Terry also doesn’t know is that Martine’s boyfriend is a member of MI5, England’s counter-intelligence and security agency. Terry soon realizes that he’s stepped into a maelstrom of corruption, one that threatens him, his family, and his friends.

As directed by Roger Donaldson (The World's Fastest Indian, The Recruit, Thirteen Days), The Bank Job moves along at an often dizzying, always energetic pace. Donaldson manages to balance multiple storylines and more than 70 speaking parts with a lightness and deftness that belies the complexity of the interweaving storylines and a top-down critique of British society. It’s not a particularly insightful or original critique, but it gives The Bank Job more grit and depth than that found in the average heist film where the third act usually turns on in-gang double- and triple-crosses, gunplay, and a high body count.

The Bank Job benefits significantly from the solid early 70s soundtrack (e.g. T-Rex, The Basics, The Kinks, Wilson Pickett), period detail (e.g. groovy clothes and set design), a shooting style that puts story first and visuals second, and Jason Statham taking a step outside his action-first, acting-second roles to play a character who uses his head before his fists.

Well, okay, that’s not completely true. Statham’s fans will probably cheer when he takes on a few villains in hand-to-brick combat, but alas, Statham in action hero mode doesn’t jibe with The Bank Job’s generally gritty, grounded tone. While the film starts off lightheartedly as Terry and his crew plan and execute the bank heist early on, it shifts almost imperceptibly to a much darker tone as reversals threaten to take away Terry and his crew’s ill-gotten gains first and their lives second.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars