The Italian Job

As usual nothing is sacred in Hollywood when the Hollywood Remake Machine™ rumbles into action. This time it’s set it beady little eyes on the Michael Caine’s 1969 classic The Italian Job.

Charlie (Mark Wahlberg) cajoles his former mentor and expert safe-cracker John Bridger (Donald Sunderland) into one last job. The job involves stealing $35 million from a safe in Venice with Charlie and his crew. The crew consist of getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives expert Left Ear (Mos Def), cyber hacker extraordinaire Lyle (Seth Green) and Steve (Edward Norton).

After the slick and very smooth robbery goes ahead like clockwork, the gang head out of Italy. Unfortunately Steve decides that he’s not sharing the gold and double crosses the gang, during which John gets killed and the rest of the gang plunge to a watery grave.

Cut to a one year later and Steve is living it large in LA. It transpires that Charlie and the gang escaped their watery deaths and are more than a little pissed. Charlie decides that the best way to get back at Steve is to take the gold back from him and leave him with nothing.

For the plan to succeed the gang needs a safe cracker, so Charlie seeks out the one person who has the necessary skills – John’s daughter Stella (Charlize Theron).

With the gang poised to snatch the gold from Steve, their intricate plan has only one weakness, not the location or the souped-up Minis, but the fact that Stella isn’t a professional thief and the fact that she’s too emotional involved. And what if Steve discovers that they are alive and that the gang intends to snatch the gold?

Thankfully this remake isn’t like the original bar the fact that there are Minis involved – which is a good thing as this version can then be merited on its own standards.

The Italian Job has some funny moments mainly with Mos Def and Seth Green supplying the laughs. Seth Green has an ongoing gag where he actually invented the file-sharing program Napster, but his college room mate stole the software while he was napping at his keyboards – hence the name Napster.

The film has an higher than usual Hollywood pseudo-gloss on it with scenes such as Stella practising safecracking in her bra and panties – okay, its unrealistic but makes for a much more interesting viewing! Also the gang are supposed to be hardened criminals but they are the warm and fuzzy kind of criminals (i.e. wouldn’t harm a fly).

Performances are nothing really to write home about. Michael Caine has more charisma in his little finger than Mark Walberg has in his entire body. Mind you, his dialogue is pretty dire with lines such as “John was like a father to me too” all the time. Charlize Theron acts purely in the one-dimension, but is very easy on the eye as always. Edward Norton makes for an okay villain but seems to be on auto-pilot (apparently this role was a contractual obligation and that he wasn’t really interested in doing it – and it shows).

Having said all the negative points the film – if taken in the right light – is entertaining enough as a lightweight comedy-action romp. It could have no connection with the original film bar the title – and in this case it should have been called something else. The highlight obviously is the chase involving the Minis around, under and through LA. However the film does play like an extended advert for the little cars at time; wonder how much BMW assisted the film makers? It’s just thankful that no one said “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

Score 6/10