I haven’t seen the original, but from what I hear all this remake shares with the 1969 Michael Caine vehicle is a title and the use of Mini Coopers in the big chase scene. The plot is pretty simple: dudes steal gold, dudes get gold stolen from them by other dudes, dudes try to steal the gold again from dudes that stole it from them.
This is your basic heist flick and, as tends to be the case, it’s through the ensemble performances that it distinguishes itself. The movie star wattage is not as mind-blowing as in Ocean’s 11 (still the best recent heist flick in my opinion), the cast assembled here is not too shabby either. I’ve never been a huge fan of Marky Mark Wahlberg, who I find a tad too white-bread (only as Dirk Diggler as he ever rocked my world), but he’s a good enough male lead and I liked the early scenes between his character and the mentor/father figure played by Donald Sutherland. Most enjoyable is Marky Mark’s Funky Bunch of criminal partners: computer hacker Lyle (Seth Green), explosives specialist Left Ear (Mos Def) and cocky getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham). Mos Def is as compelling as ever, even though he’s underused – Seth Green gets the funniest lines, and his impersonation of the wonderfully macho and charming Statham brings down the house.
Charlize Theron is a welcomed addition as Sutherland’s daughter. Her part is little more than the hot-blonde-in-tight-shirts (who happens to know how to-crack a safe like her old man), but she makes the best of it. Sadly I can’t say the same of Edward Norton. As much as I adored his late ‘90s performances, lately he seems to be phoning in performances (25th Hour notwithstanding). He’s not bad per se in “The Italian Job”, but he’s too sympathetic to play the rogue.
Director F. Gary Gray doesn’t reinvent the movie reel but he’s put together exciting action sequences, from the opening speedboat chase through the Venice canals (borrowed from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but cool nonetheless) to the extended finale involving a massive traffic jam in L.A., armored trucks, motorcycles, product placement for Pepsi Fruity-Windex, a helicopter, subway trains and, of course, Mini Coopers. “The Italian Job” isn’t extraordinary or particularly original, but it’s a fun summer romp with engaging performances, a few clever twists and hardly a dull moment, not unlike Gray’s The Negotiator.