[Screen It]

(2008) (Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows) (R)

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Drama: A model convinces her former lover to assemble a team to pull off a bank heist, with them realizing too late the repercussions of stealing the personal effects stored in the safe-deposit boxes they pilfer.
Terry Leather (JASON STATHAM) is a petty criminal and family man -- husband to Catherine (TAELOR SAMWAYS) and father to their two kids -- who runs a small auto shop, but owes a lot of money to someone whose thugs don't let him forget that. Accordingly, when his former lover, model Martine Love (SAFFRON BURROWS), comes to him with information about a potential bank heist, he's initially cautious, but soon likes the sound of the job.

What he doesn't know, however, is that she's having an affair with Tim Everett (RICHARD LINTERN), an operative with Britain's MI5 intelligence agency who's actually the one behind the heist. It seems that Caribbean drug lord and black power figure Michael X (PETER DE JERSEY) is in the possession of some potentially embarrassing sex photos of Princess Margaret and is using them to blackmail the government to stay out of his business.

With MI5 having one of its undercover agents, Gale Benson (HATTIE MORAHAN), working from the inside by becoming the lover to Michael X's associate, Hakim Jamal (COLIN SALMON), Tim has learned that the photos are locked away in a safe-deposit box in Lloyds Bank in London. And with Martine needing help with drug possession charges, Tim forces her hand in convincing Terry to take the job.

With him needing the money to keep the debt goons at bay, he and his friends, amateur porn actor Dave Shilling (DANIEL MAYS) and photographer Kevin Swain (STEPHEN CAMPBELL MOORE) begin assembling their team. Tunnel expert Bambas (ALKI DAVID) will help in going underground from a nearby store -- leased by Guy Singer (JAMES FAULKNER) -- while Eddie Burton (MICHAEL JIBSON) will serve as the lookout from an adjacent roof.

Despite the complications, however, the heist turns out to be the easy part, as the repercussions of their act progressively mount, from the local cops trying to solve the crime, to MI5 wanting their photos, Michael X angry about who stole them from him, and local smut peddler Lew Vogel (DAVID SUCHET) wanting to know who stole his incriminating client ledger from his safe-deposit box. As all of them come looking for the thieves, Terry tries to figure out how to handle all of that and more.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
While today's young generation might think it's quaint, and back before securing one's private matters meant something beyond setting up computer firewalls and other Internet security, people once more commonly used safe-deposit boxes to hold their valuables. Whether those were stock certificates, jewelry or emergency cash, today's baby boomers and their parents believed such use was the end-all, be-all of protecting their irreplaceable goods.

Of course, such highly secure hiding spots were -- and still are -- good places to stash things you don't want anyone to know about or find, potentially ranging from illegal contraband to possibly embarrassing material, say along the lines of scandalous videos or photos regarding certain in flagrante delicto acts.

The storage of the latter is the catalyst found in "The Bank Job," a fairly enjoyable heist flick loosely based on a real-life robbery that took place more than thirty years ago in London, and ultimately yielded an unbelievably enormous take.

The fun of such flicks -- casting aside the criminal behavior -- is usually in watching the protagonist assemble his or her team, identify the obstacles, and then overcome them to pull off the "job." That's certainly the case here, but it's only half of the film as the rest deals with the aftermath, wrangling, and other repercussions of the robbery.

You see, cash from the vault isn't the intended target, but rather the contents of aforementioned safe-deposit boxes. And since there's more in them than those potentially damaging sex photos (involving a certain British princess), and those people aren't happy their secrets are possibly now out in the real world, they'll pretty much do whatever is necessary to squelch the dissemination of them and/or those responsible for their unleashing.

Throw in James Bond type agencies and agents, a black power drug lord, kinky aristocratic government officials, a smut peddler, his former actor, local cops, past lovers and much more, and the film sometimes feels as if it's going to drown in characters and related plots. It surely kicks off in a hurry, seemingly channeling director Guy Ritchie's similarly themed and fast-paced crime pics such as "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (no doubt helped along by having Ritchie regular Jason Statham also appearing here).

Thankfully, director Roger Donaldson ("No Way Out," "The Recruit") -- working from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' script -- doesn't maintain that frenetic pace of introductions and camera cuts, and instead fairly quickly settles down into standard heist formula. While it doesn't have the charm, wit or star power of say, the remake of "Ocean's Eleven," it clearly works in terms of delivering an entertaining diversion. If anything, it certainly won't leave many viewers bored, no doubt due to the plethora of parts, individual and collective agendas, obstacles and such.

Some may complain that it's not as easy to get behind the criminals' plan as was the case with Misters Clooney, Pitt and Damon in their casino robbing endeavor. Yet, as was the case with that flick, the fact that those who are getting robbed aren't necessarily good guys means one's distaste for the illegal behavior is tempered enough that it shouldn't become a distraction or disability for the film.

While the dialogue isn't always as sharp as it should be, and some may find Statham simply recycling the tough guy limey stereotype he's now made solely his, the performances for the most part are good, and the filmmakers decently balance the action and drama with comic relief.

Certainly not for the kids, the film is a decent, adult-oriented throwback to heist films of old, where viewers get caught up in the proceedings, watching the thieves ending up in over their heads and trying to squirm or manipulate their way out of that. "The Bank Job" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed February 14, 2008 / Posted March 7, 2008

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