The Bank Job

There are so many movies out there about a bunch of regular folk deciding to rob a bank that I am always bewildered when I find out a new one is coming out. What is the obsession with robbing banks in the movie business? Have producers not gotten over the proverbial opening of the vault shot? Are those movies meant to stand as a metaphor for movie producers stealing the public’s money by recycling old premises instead of writing new ones? Have we not seen enough? The Bank Job does not seem to think so. In fact, not only does it embraces the clichés of its genre, it attempts to give them new relevance by basing its plot on a true story.

The Bank Job is inspired by an infamous 1971 bank robbery in London that to this day remains mysterious and filled with unanswered questions. Most of the stolen goods and fortunes have never been recovered and the case itself has been shrouded in secrecy by the government, sparking many conspiracy theories about the stolen content of the safety deposit boxes being incriminating to certain people of power. The story this movie is based on is quite interesting. The mystery behind the robbery reeks of elitist delinquency, abuse of power, and blackmail, and the scriptwriters wisely chose to not only focus the movie on the robbery itself, but on its higher purpose, and the grave consequences that hang on its line. The Bank Job is undoubtedly at its best when it cynically revels in raw and explicit sex scenes worthy of the ‘70’s, and holds an unforgiving regard for London’s high society, depicting a time when powers struggles were imminent, racial relations were tense and corruption was rampant. When dealing with the robbery however, The Bank Job, no matter how much it tries, cannot avoid feeling tarnished and cliché.

The Bank Job is a heist movie that is more of the Inside Man and Sexy Beast variety than Ocean’s 11 or The Score’s. There is something refreshing in seeing the robbers get down and dirty in order to rob a bank rather than watching them press on colorful neon buttons and rely on inexistent gadgets to get the job done, and the director clearly understands that. The Bank Job never relies on bogus technology or useless plot devices to move the story forward, and its plot remains relatively plausible from the beginning until the end. Moreover, the effort put into recreating London circa 1971 definitely adds a level of interest that would have been otherwise lacking had the story been present day. The art direction is precise and accurate and consequently makes The Bank Job really look like it’s based on a true story. The film’s dooming lacuna however, is its characters. While the plot and the look of the movie seem to have been given much thought, the character development is weak and botched, rendering most of the cast one-dimensional and unconvincing.

Jason Statham plays the team leader of this bank-robbing gang. Although it is refreshing to see Statham in a non-action oriented movie, The Bank Job confirms the fact that Statham’s niche is most definitely the action genre. The majority of characters in this movie are too underwritten to get the audience emotionally involved, however, the most seasoned actors of the cast still manage to go beyond their lines, and to remain unscathed as compelling and riveting performers; notably Saffron Burrows as the scheming and gorgeous femme fatale. Statham, on the other hand, who is given the most to play with in this film, delivers one of his blandest performances yet. The movie’s true surprise though, is Peter De Jersey who plays Michael X (England’s answer to Malcolm X), a shady and radical activist with a penchant for blackmail. De Jersey ably delivers his lines with suitable sarcasm and effective subtlety, making of his bit part one of the most memorable ones. The rest of the cast delivers, but does not shine, as it is not given much to work with.

There is always something fascinating and delicious about the elite’s dirty laundry being exposed to the public, especially when it involves sex scandals. It is rather curious why the filmmakers decided to gravitate the story around the robbery itself rather than the political conspiracy, notably since they never bring anything new to the overindulged bank robbery tale. As a result, The Bank Job seems like the little movie that could but ultimately didn’t, its brilliance lying in its subplots and its main focus feeling tired and overdone.

Review by Ralph Arida