Review by Robert Bell
Organized crime has often been a topic of fascination for filmmakers and novelists alike. Perhaps it’s the mythology of stealing the American dream without all of that pesky work (or more accurately, without being born into it), or a desire to see the seedy underbelly of a culture that seems relatively structured. Either way, it’d odd that a society with such an overt need for order would find a glamour and escapism in watching criminals make their own rules. It touches on some interesting thoughts surrounding ideas of freedom and tendencies towards chaos.
An interesting commonality amongst crime dramas is their tendency towards style rather than substance. Some of the flashiest films out there are about drug dealers, thieves, and gangsters. The Bank Job is no exception to this rule. The film has top-notch pacing and some genuinely tense moments, but is surprisingly simplistic and leans heavily towards visual flourish rather than anything resembling depth. The movie is based on the true story of the 1971 Lloyds in London bank robbery overheard by police officers through walkie talkie communications between the robbers.
Terry Leather (Jason Statham) owns a used car lot and owes money to some loan sharks. When he is approached by the stunning Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), a flame from his past, and is asked to help rob a bank he makes little hesitation before jumping on the bandwagon.
The robbery goes along without a hitch until Terry finds out the real reason Martine was so keen on being involved with the heist. Once the deceptions come out, Terry and his team find themselves in danger, and that this simple robbery involves much more than they originally thought.
One of the stronger things going for this film is the propulsive and stylistically consistent direction from Aussie Roger Donaldson. Donaldson has had a rather spotty track record behind the lens, helming features like Dante’s Peak and The Recruit, but in The Bank Job he keeps the action moving along at a solid clip throughout. Scenes rarely last longer than a minute, the camera is always on the move, soundtrack is always on the go, and quickly timed edits progress the story forward. This effect works well for keeping up audience engagement for a relatively uneventful heist. Unfortunately, aside from this stylistic impulse there is essentially no depth or any additional insights in this film.
While the dialogue is certainly snappy, and appropriate for small time criminals, it doesn’t give much insight into any of the characters. Aside from Terry’s familial loyalty, and Martine’s tendency towards promiscuity, there is little depth to their respective roles. The secondary characters are even more thinly painted, offering the audience absolutely no emotional engagement or investment in the outcome. In addition, no reflection on the nature of crime or the overlying sexual depravity that caused the situation is touched on, essentially making the film an exercise in frivolity. To make things worse, the film ends up reaching for unearned emotional catharsis from the audience. Based on the proceeding, this turn of events is unwelcome and awkward.
Statham and Burrows are decent in their roles given that not much is asked of them. Jason Statham is good at being a ruggedly handsome bulldog of a man, and Saffron Burrows is good at seducing with her eyes. None of this is particularly new and won’t surprise anyone familiar with either of the thesps’ previous efforts.
The Bank Job is an entertaining watch. It does clip along at a good pace, and certainly keeps the audience engaged. It’s just unfortunate that no effort was made in giving the characters dimension, and that nothing about the film is particularly clever or necessary. This one is worth a watch, but isn’t particularly memorable.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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