Tuesday 9 February 2021

Movie Review: The Bank Job (2008)

A bank heist thriller, The Bank Job is a slick, polished and multi-dimensional crime adventure.

It's the early 1970s in London. British intelligence services are eager to steal scandalous pictures harmful to the royal family from Black activist leader and criminal Michael X (Peter de Jersey). Intelligence agent Gale Benson (Hattie Morahan) infiltrates the gangster's inner circle, and model Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) is recruited to help plan a bank heist targeting the safe deposit box where the pictures are stashed.

Martine turns to ex-boyfriend Terry Leather (Jason Statham), a petty criminal and struggling used car dealer. He forms a break-in team including buddies Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Dave (Daniel Mays) as well as a tunneling expert and a suave front man. But a bank vault contains many secrets, and soon Terry finds himself in the middle of a mess involving violent pornographers, corrupt police officers, and compromised politicians.

Remarkably based on real events, The Bank Job boasts a cool vibe and quality execution. Without scaling any superlative heights, director Roger Donaldson weaves an excellent story featuring overlapping sordid secrets and shady lowlifes up to no good. The character-rich script co-written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais develops multiple people and story lines with smooth, almost effortless, efficiency within a bouncy early 1970s London aesthetic.

The careful set-up pays off when all the nefarious agendas collide. Despite being generally clueless in the science and art of bank heists, small-time hood Terry Leather and his motley crew break into the Lloyds Bank on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, but not before a ham radio operator picks up the thieves' walkie-talkie transmissions all but describing every step of their crime. 

Terry and his men only want the money and jewellery, Martine is just interested in the compromising photos, but their haul also happens to include evidence of deep-rooted police corruption and politicians behaving really badly, setting in motion a manic final 30 minutes. A classic mop-up operation swings into action, endangering some lives and forever changing others, with Terry walking a tightrope to find an exit.

Jason Statham as Terry manages to maintain the calmest head when mayhem erupts, and benefits from a thin but adequate family backstory to subdue his screen persona's more outlandish attributes. Saffron Burrows is less comfortable as a made-up character awkwardly connecting intelligence services with scrappy hoods. The rest of the cast is filled with character actors getting on with the job, David Suchet most prominent as nightclub owner/gangland boss Lew Vogel, inspired by Bernie Silver.

Sassy and swift, The Bank Job is a successful swindle.

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