Saturday 11 December 2021

Movie Review: The Italian Job (1969)

A heist comedy, The Italian Job features the memorable escapades of a trio of nimble Mini Coopers in Turin, but is otherwise bland and rarely funny.

In Italy, heist-planner Beckermann (Rossano Brazzi) is murdered by a Mafia group controlled by Altabani (Raf Vallone). In England, professional thief Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) is released from prison and into the arms of girlfriend Lorna (Maggie Blye). Then Beckermann's widow hands Charlie her late husband's plan for an audacious theft of a gold shipment in Turin.

The plot involves slowing down the armoured convoy transporting the gold from the airport by sabotaging the city's computerized traffic control system to cause a massive traffic jam. Charlie convinces incarcerated criminal mastermind Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward) to finance the operation, and recruits a team of drivers and computer expert Professor Peach (Benny Hill). But Altabani is not pleased with a group of Brits planning a heist on his turf.

The final 30 minutes of The Italian Job feature a carefree demonstration - and perfect advertisement - for the Mini Cooper. The three cars in Union Jack colours zoom up and down stairs, on narrow sidewalks, in sewer pipes, and up upon roof structures, completing wild stunts as Charlie and his gang make their escape with Italian police vehicles in hot pursuit.

The cars just about save the day and are much more memorable than anything else in the movie. The Troy Kennedy Martin script, directed by Peter Collinson, is devoid of edge and wit. The simplistic Brits-outsmarting-Italians narrative is cluttered with wrecked cars and just as many cheaply defined characters, and even Charlie rides on Michael Caine's natural charisma and nothing else. The heist details are barely sketched-in, and none of the other gang members are provided even the courtesy of a decent introduction.

Unfortunately Professor Peach does get some attention, Benny Hill crashing the party and bringing his unwelcome dumb and lecherous persona to the big screen. 

The rest of the movie is a celebration of Noël Coward's flamboyance, as Mr. Bridger pulls the strings of his criminal empire from within the cosy confines of a prison while stridently demonstrating unbridled nationalism. The sheer mention of his name is enough to cow the Mafia into submission, The Italian Job blissfully prolonging the fantasy of lingering British influence.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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