Film Review: ‘Bank Job’ a solid crack of the safe
The greatest bank robbery in the history of Great Britain took place in 1971 on Baker Street in London. No money was ever recovered and no suspects apprehended. Because of a DA-notice, a national security gag order by the British government, the true story of this incredible caper had always been shrouded in mystery – until now.
Appropriately titled, The Bank Job recounts the heist as accurately as the history books and Hollywood allow. Certain facts of the case are still classified, and as is always the case with such a film, liberties have been taken with other details in order to present the most compelling version of events.
The main architect of the robbery is Terry Leather (Jason Statham). A car salesman, family man and reformed criminal, Leather also happens to be in debt to the wrong kind of people.
As fate would have it an old acquaintance of Leather’s, Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), arrives in town with an offer too good for a man in his position to refuse: a foolproof bank robbery. After assembling a crew of friends and associates, the heist is on.
Unbeknownst to Leather and the other members of his team, Love is in league with MI5, and the robbery is merely a setup to acquire the contents of a safety deposit box inside the bank’s vault. The items of interest are compromising photographs of the Princess Margaret in the possession of civil rights extremist Michael X.
A disciple of Malcolm X, Michael X values the pictures as leverage against the British government, and uses them to avoid arrest and detainment for his numerous illicit activities. London’s criminal underworld also has a vested interest in the vault’s contents, and once the news hits of the robbery all bets are off as each party tries to outmaneuver the other in recovering the stolen goods.
The Bank Job is a fairly exciting film, if a bit uneven. Until the point of the robbery the movie plays like an Ocean’s 11 spinoff without the charm or the star power of the Steven Soderbergh film series. Most of the supporting cast fails to leave any notable impression and because of the similar circumstances one gets a "been there, done that" feeling during these portions of the movie.
Most of the action and suspense comes in the second half of the film once Leather and crew are on the run from the various powers vying for the deposit box contents. As the plot takes several turns, elements, which at first seem disjointed, all come together as the story progresses and the movie races toward its climax.
Although much of the film and its characters are apparently conjecture, the weaving of Michael X, a well-known historical figure, into the story makes for more intrigue than would otherwise be the case and adds significant authenticity to the story.
Statham turns in a good performance as the likeable protagonist, but those familiar with his roles in The Transporter and Crank may be disappointed by the lack of fight scenes. While Statham does get to show off some of his impressive skills at the film’s climax, there is more to his Bank Job character than just throwing punches. Leather is conflicted, struggling with his feelings for Love and the thrill of the heist against the love he has for his family and the well-being of his friends.
Audiences be warned, The Bank Job is a very intense motion picture and quite deserving of its R rating. Graphic depictions of violence, torture and sexual situations serve the story well, but may be a turn off to potential viewers.
The closing postscript states "names have been changed to protect the guilty," which is a nice play on the usual "innocent" line, but this serves as a reminder that no matter how plausible – or implausible, depending on your interpretation – the film’s story may be, it is not the definitive tale of the Baker Street bank robbery of 1971, but it is as close as we’re going to get to learning the truth of one of history’s greatest capers.