The title should tell you what I think of the movie ‘The Bank Job’. A well-crafted, slick piece of work, I dare say that, at least in terms of plot, story and character development, the film can hold its own against the other, better financed products in the same genre. Similarities can be drawn to the ‘Ocean’s’ films, though on the face of it the two are as different as night and day. While Steven Soderbergh relied on his stars, the music and the colours of the films to move the story forward, ‘The Bank Job’ relies upon the real-life story of an unsolved bank robbery.
And what an intriguing story it is. As I was watching it, I am slightly surprised that no film has been made about it previously. Later on, doing my little bit on research on the subject matter, there were attempts over the past 20 years to bring the story to the silver screen. Names like Sean Connery was even touted around, which I find funny, because one of the actors, Richard Lintern, reminded me of the first James Bond man.
Before I get my nose even deeper into the filmmaker’s arse, an outline of the plot is required. Be prepared, it is a complex one. Jason Statham plays Terry Leathers, a small-time crook who has since tried to clean up his ways and live the straight life. However, he is slightly behind on his payments to other, bigger-time crooks, who constantly bother him about their money.
Frustrated with the lack of money, his old girlfriend, Martine (Saffron Burrows), suddenly turns up from nowhere and gives him the answer on a plate: a bank robbery (duh). Though evidently robbing one would solve a lot of one’s problems, Terry is still hesitant as to the exact nature of the job. Its not helped that his feelings for Martine is stirred up by her presence, something that does not sit well with Mrs Leathers (Keeley Hawes). Nevertheless, it would solve plenty of their problems, and so Terry rounds up his crew and gets on with it.
What he doesn’t know is that there are other stakeholders who are also interested in getting on with it. The MI5, placing considerable duress on Martine, are the ones instigating the entire incident. Represented here mainly by Tim Everett (the aforementioned Lintern), the group is interested in one thing, and one thing only: incriminating photos of a member of the British royal family, purported in this film to be Princess Margaret (I say purported, because nobody actually knows the exact circumstances of the robbery, and thus the exact items being stolen). They need it because they want to pull the rug under Michael X (Peter de Jersey), who is practically holding them to ransom with the photos. Michael, who is a prominent Black Power movement member, is also a pimp and drug dealer on a major scale. Thus, he is able to carry on with these activities, knowing full well that he has a ‘get out of jail’ card locked away safely inside the safe deposit.
He’s not the only one, however, who has secrets locked away in there. Lew Vogel (David Suchet) is yet another criminal figure who doesn’t want his secrets unveiled. Though not as sensational as the above, he keeps an account of the officers with whom he’s had to bribe in order for them to close one eye towards his seedy operations, which mainly consists of owning strips clubs and making porn movies. Unlike the case with the former MP of Jasin, he accounts these in a ledger, which he keeps…inside the same vault of the same bank.
You can see, then, the recipe for disaster that is the movie. Many characters, with many stakes, playing out many different storylines. Ultimately, however, these characters are all intertwined, and the film brings it all together in a nice, full circle. Though the spotlight is undoubtedly on the stars of the show, Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows, the rest of the cast members get a decent amount of time to establish their own characters.
Fictionalised characters, of course. As I mentioned earlier, no one really knowns the exact nature of the items being stolen, primarily because of a gag order placed on the media of the day. You’d think that England, out of all the places, wouldn’t have that sort of law in place, but they do, as it turns out. Keeping the Malaysian government in good company, what the D-Notice effectively does is to ensure that the hottest news of the previous three days was literally gone by the next. On the official site of the movie, there is even an attempt to show you clips from the newspapers reporting on the incident (I say attempt, because it’s not a very good one. To have a look at it yourself, click here).
Through such efforts, the film tries hard to ground itself in reality. This extends, of course, even to the production of the film, where great care has been taken to ensure that the houses, trains, cars, clothes, and even the hairstyles look like they’ve just stepped right out of the time machine. I say ‘try’, because I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I’m no expert on the fashion of the day. Regardless, to my eye it looks a convincing enough an effort, and works well as a period film as well.
A big part of the is due to the cast as well. Though it’s not really dependant on anyone winning any acting nominations, it is worthy to note that Jason Statham looks very much at home in this London-set film. It made me realise how long he’s been away from British films. Having carved out a successful career for himself in action flicks in America, to see him play just a normal British guy is…interesting. Fact is, he’s been playing the normal British guy in almost every film, it’s just that his particular character seems well at home here.
The film, then, is a neat flick that rounds up all the action and the plot really well. The pace of the film is quite fast, and with dynamic camera movements, you feel as if you’re not being given a chance to properly take stock of what’s going on. Despite of that, you don’t miss out on anything. You’ll even get a chance for a laugh or two, breaking the tension once in a while. Perhaps a bit more tension would have been served had the contents of the respective boxes be withheld a little while longer, but there’s enough on that front as it is.
I understand that in the season of Iron Mans, Hulks and Indiana Joneses, ‘The Bank Job’ might not play well enough to pick up a lot of money. Don’t let that fact distract you, however, for this is a mature film that satisfies both the mind and the heart. If you’re looking for an alternative to those films, then ‘The Bank Job’ is a right steal.
Fikri is reminded of the crazy sharks from ‘Deep Blue Sea’ every time he sees Saffron Burrows on screen. He doesn’t particularly know why, apart from the fact that she was in that film as well.