The Italian Job Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/30/2003
The Italian Job is a film about redemption. No, that isn’t what the plot is about, it was what happened to the director and the main star. Director F. Gary Gray helmed the sub par Vin Diesel flick A Man Apart, and Mark Wahlberg starred in two critically hated remakes, Planet of the Apes and The Truth about Charlie (the later of which was the only one of the two that I personally hated), plus Rock Star, the not-so-subtle re-telling of the Judas Priest story. Both of them needed a good project to work on, and this remake of the 1969 Michael Caine heist flick was just the right project.
John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) was a veteran safecracker who planned to do one last heist, or at least that is what he told his daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron.) The plan was to steal $35 million worth of gold bullion from a heavily guarded palazzo in Venice, Italy. Mastermind thief Charlie Croker (Wahlberg) had worked with John several times and looked up to him as a father figure. He recruits John to join his crew of thieves, including inside man Steve Frezelli (Edward Norton), computer genius Lyle (Seth Green) a.k.a. Napster, wheelman Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), and explosives expert Left-Ear (Mos Def.) The heist goes flawless, and they all get away unscathed. They start talking about all the things they plan to do with the money. On the way out of Italy, an oncoming vehicle on a bridge stops them. It turns out that Steve had planned to rob them after they pulled off the heist and eliminate the evidence, i.e. kill all of the people in the crew. Steve kills John, but the rest survive by driving their vehicle off the bridge and pretending to be drowned. One year later, Charlie finds out that Steve took the gold bullion to Los Angeles and has been attempting to sell them on the black market. The surviving crew plans to rob Steve back, but this time the motive is revenge more than monetary value. Charlie enlists Stella to join the crew, since she also happens to be a skilled safecracker, except she does it legally for security companies to test out their safes. At first, she is reluctant, but then the thought of getting back at the man who killed her father motivates her to join in. The plan is to tap into Los Angeles’ traffic control system, manipulate the signals, and create one of the biggest traffic jams in L.A. history. The reason for this is so they can get away quickly by having all green lights. They will break in to Steve’s house, load up all the loot into some souped-up Mini-Coopers, and get away. They find their opportunity to break in after Stella poses as a cable repairwoman who has been sent to check on Steve’s faulty cable (which is just an opportunity for them to case the joint.) Steve asks Stella out on a date, and she agrees to go out with him in order to get him out of the house. On the night of the date, they drive their Mini-Coopers, which had been customized with increased suspension and horsepower by Wrench (Franky G), to Steve’s house, only to find out there was a party next door with too many witnesses. They decide to postpone the heist, and still keep Steve in the dark about their existence and Stella’s identity. As Steve begins to suspect that people are finding out about the Italian Job, he eliminates his gold bullion fence (without knowing that he is a member of a Ukrainian crime family) and hires some armored cars to take his loot away. Charlie’s crew then alters their plan, which now involves robbing the armored cars and finally getting their payback on Steve at the same time.
This may be the third remake in a row for Wahlberg, but it was a good choice for him. Everyone in the movie is great, including Norton, who was forced to do this movie in order to fulfill a three-picture deal with Paramount. The highlight of the film is the part where they explain how they acquired their individual talents. It is one of several funny scenes in a movie that isn’t necessarily a comedy, but the yuks are certainly welcome. It is definitely an action film, and the chase scenes with the Mini-Coopers through various areas of L.A. are amazing. While I liked the entire cast, Green is the scene-stealer. Every time he showed his face, it became a fun scene.
I never saw the original Italian Job, but I can’t imagine it was nearly as entertaining as this version. The only thing wrong with the movie is the predictable ending. It isn’t evident right away, but you see it coming long before it arrives. Other than that, you will enjoy the film (though I have heard from several sources that it doesn’t live up to the original.) Maybe The Italian Job will be the movie that saves the careers of Gray and Wahlberg, and maybe ol’ Marky Mark can now make an original flick!
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