Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review both John and Tyler provide their opinions of the film, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.
The Movie According to John:
I love a good caper picture, and 2008's "The Bank Job" is just that, thanks to the experienced hand of director Roger Donaldson ("The World's Fastest Indian," "Thirteen Days," "Species," "No Way Out") and star Jason Statham ("The Transporter," "Revolver," "Crank") in one of his few non-supermacho roles. That the filmmakers based their story on a true-life incident from 1971, purported to be one of the biggest bank robberies in British history, only adds to the movie's cachet.
Yes, of course the movie embroiders the facts. It's a movie after all. But the basic story idea remains intact, as do most of the main characters (although the filmmakers changed many of the names).
What you have to understand, however, is that "The Bank Job" is not an action thriller. Despite the presence of Jason Statham in the lead, there is hardly a shot fired or a fist that flies in the whole affair. It's a character study more than anything, and a fairly engrossing one at that. The movie involves us in the lives of its participants more so than, say, things like the "Oceans" flicks, where the concentration is more on the intricacies of the plotting. "The Bank Job" is not particularly intricate or complicated, and the method of robbing the bank turns out to be rather mundane. It's the lead-up to the robbery, the complications that arise during robbery itself, and the consequences of the robbery on the main characters that engage one's interest.
Tyler will tell you a little more about the plot in his review to follow, but basically the story is about the British government discovering that an undesirable citizen has compromising photos of one of the Royal family, and said photos are locked up in a safe-deposit box at Lloyd's Bank on Baker Street. The government can't just go in and confiscate the documents without the situation possibly backfiring on them, so they decide to rob the bank, covering their taking of the documents with their taking of the cash and making it look like a simple "bank job." The trouble is, they don't want any of their own people involved in the robbery because, you know, how would it look if the government got caught robbing a bank? So they entrust a secret-service agent to arrange the job by contracting outside sources. The agent persuades one of his girlfriends to ask some of her questionable friends to do the work.
Thus does Jason Statham enter the picture. He's Terry Leather, a cheap, small-time hood the girlfriend approaches to do the robbery. Terry runs a shady used-car business in London's East End, and he jumps at the chance of possibly making a big score and moving his wife and two young girls out of their tiny flat. Who'da thunk Statham was as good an actor as he is. Usually, we just see his fists and feet flying as he lays out baddies left and right. As Terry, Statham is quite convincing, and he only has one opportunity to slug somebody in the entire movie. He's more of an everyday Joe than an evildoer, and he's surely no hero. In fact, as the movie opens a pair of thugs are intimidating him, and he's pretty much having to take it. Yeah, I like him as an action hero, too, but it's nice to see him do a dramatic change of pace as well.
Even though Terry knows nothing about robbing banks, he puts together a team of old friends as equally inexperienced as he is in the business. Together, they're about as talented as the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Yet you shouldn't get the impression that this is a comedy or done strictly for laughs. It isn't, even though there are a few humorous situations along the way. Which makes it all the more fascinating.
To complicate matters, a local mob boss and porn king, Lew Vogel, who has been paying off half the London police force, coincidentally stores his private ledger (naming all the people in the force he's paid bribes to) at the very bank Terry and his gang rob. When Vogel finds out somebody's stolen his ledger, he vows to track down the gang members himself and retrieve his belongings. His techniques are far more efficient and ruthless than the police's. David Suchet plays Vogel, Suchet being the chameleonlike actor that viewers might better recognize as television's Hercule Poirot, if, indeed, you could recognize him at all.
Saffron Burrows plays Martine Love, the lady who contacts Terry. Martine is a former model and full-time crook. You may recognize her from "Troy" or "Flashpoint" or "Deep Blue Sea" or any number of films. Richard Lintern plays Tim Everett, the MI5 agent who contacts Martine for help. Lintern is tall, dark, and handsome, but he's no James Bond. The nice thing about this film is that we see people as they really are, and most of the work of a secret agent is not at all glamorous but quite run-of-the-mill and boring, their having to compromise whatever scruples they have at the government's whim.
And did I mention that it isn't just photographs incriminating a member of the Royal Family that the government wants to recover? To snarl up the business further, it seems a local madam uses the bank to store the incriminating photographs and movies of her clients dong business, many of whom are top-ranking parliamentary officials. The head of Britain's Intelligence division, Miles Urquhart (Peter Bowles of "To the Manor Born"), has all the more reason to retrieve everything Terry's team robs, excluding the money.
You get the idea: The further the story goes along, the deeper it gets, dragging Terry with it. Poor Terry had no clue what he was getting into when he signed on for the job. So it isn't just the robbery that's fun; it's what happens afterward.
"The Bank Job" moves methodically forward, building tension by revealing ever more information a piece at a time on the characters and the unfolding events. As everything goes wrong for the robbers that could go wrong, it's a wonder Terry's team got as far as they did. Yet it's lucky for us because it makes for a crackerjack story.
John's film rating: 7/10
The Movie According to Tyler:
"The Bank Job" is one of the more disappointingly mediocre and overall uneventful films I've sat through in a long while. It's not necessarily a bad movie, but it's also not a very good one, either. "The Bank Job" is simply the same heist movie you've already seen made and remade for the past fifty years. I suppose in a world devoid of "Riffi," "Reservoir Dogs," and "The Killing," "The Bank Job" might seem like a notable entry to the genre. But thankfully we do not live in that sad sounding world, and here in this reality "The Bank Job" would have gone completely unnoticed if not for the inclusion of Jason Statham in the leading role.
Based on of "true events," the plot for "The Bank Job" is as simplistic as it comes. A group of robbers get together under the guidance of somebody who isn't completely honest about their reasons for staging said heist. The heist occurs and things go wrong and then a bunch of double crossing occurs until the end credits roll. For those of you in need of more explanation, here it is in drawn-out detail. Petty criminal Terry Leathers (Statham) is approached by his ex-girlfriend Martine (Saffron Burrows), who lets him in on a security breach she's become aware of at a bank on Baker Street in London. Terry gathers a crew of like-minded thieves, and the group digs their way into the vault of the bank. The only problem is that Martine wasn't entirely honest about the heist's true mission. While the rest of the group grabs all the cash and jewels they can pry out of the vault's safe deposit boxes, Martine makes a beeline for one box in particular. For she's been enlisted by MI5 to recover the contents of the box registered to black revolutionary Micheal X, blackmail photographs of Princess Margret doing the horizontal mambo with a couple of cabana boys. On top of that, the thieves also manage to pilfer an additional folder of photos featuring many high-ranking government officials being serviced at a local S & M brothel. After fleeing the scene, a few different double crosses occur with the end result for our ragtag group of thieves being a citywide manhunt involving the coppers, as well as the UK's top security agency and thugs from both Micheal X's camp and the brothel.
While the film proudly states that its plot is "Based on A True Story," the fact that the news reports regarding the original 1971 robbery were blocked for reasons of National Security led the scriptwriters to rely on a sincere amount of speculation. Micheal X's true involvement is unknown as his government files have been sealed since the incident. Thus, "The Bank Job" is yet another one of those movies that's kinda sorta almost based on true events that might have happened but probably didn't.
There isn't a standout moment in the entire 110-minute run time of "The Bank Job." The cinematography is completely average, there isn't a remarkable bit of acting occurring on screen, and the script is painfully by the numbers. Upon glancing at the resume for the duo that wrote "The Bank Job," this isn't entirely surprising given their biggest films to date rested on the shoulders of either the film's soundtrack "Across the Universe" or a familiar animation style "Flushed Away." The directing is as average as it gets. But who in their right mind was expecting to see a film with any sort of an original voice crafted by Roger Donaldson, the man who gave us "Cocktail," "Species," and "Dante's Peak"? The main tragedy of "The Bank Job" is the complete waste of Jason Statham, who was seemingly headed to the top tier of action stars with hits like "Crank," "Snatch," and "The Transporter." Given that his next four projects are all unwanted sequels or remakes, it seems as if Statham's star has already begun its decent back to earth and will inevitably crash in a field of bland direct-to-DVD action films.
I am by no means a fan of recent "flashy" action flicks like "Wanted," "Underworld" or "The Matrix." Yet "The Bank Job" was still too slow paced even for me. In a world overflowing with great heist movies, an effortless time waster like "The Bank Job" simply has no reason to exist. It will be quickly forgotten over the next three to five years, only to be remembered by the occasional airing on a lazy Sunday afternoon on TNT. Even then I'd rather sit through "Ocean's Thirteen" again before settling for the likes of "The Bank Job." And, no, I wasn't just saying that to be mean.... Okay, maybe just a little bit.
Tyler's film rating: 5/10
Some of you may remember that I am not terribly keen on digital photography, and the present filmmakers used Arriflex D-20 digital cameras to shoot "The Bank Job." Lionsgate use a 1080p MPEG-4/AVC video codec and a single-layer BD25 disc to reproduce the picture, capturing pretty much what I remember the film looking like from a movie theater, which wasn't necessarily good. The picture has a soft, flat, digital appearance to it, displaying a little less detail than traditional film photography might. The subdued colors and cushy delineation give the movie a suitably drab tone, which nicely complements the cheapness of the characters involved but doesn't exactly cry out for high definition. Not that the video quality is bad, and, of course, the screen is ultraclean, with little-to-no grain involved. Close-ups are best, with medium and long shots suffering the most from the somewhat hazy shooting.
The soundtrack gets a full DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 treatment, even if most of the film contains little more than dialogue. Still, surround effects are welcome for environmental settings like bars, restaurants, train stations, and subway platforms. I found the musical accompaniment displaying a pleasant bloom in the rears, the overall audio well balanced, and dynamics strong. This is unspectacular but quite natural sound.
Audio note: Users bitstreaming DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 to certain receivers--Denon, Integra, Onkyo, and Yamaha, among others--for decoding have reported occasional loud pops during playback. DTS informed the receiver manufacturers of this issue, and they have resolved it in current models and are offering upgrades to older product. In addition, DTS provided studios with detailed instructions on how to reproduce DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio to avoid the problem, but apparently not all studios got the memo. I received two Blu-ray discs on the same day with DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtracks: "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" from New Line and "The Bank Job" from Lionsgate. The "Harold & Kumar" audio played perfectly, but "The Bank Job" made a loud pop every time I took it out of "Pause." The work-around I used for "The Bank Job" was to put the receiver in "Mute" for a moment just before returning it from "Pause." Maybe Lionsgate had "The Bank Job" BD already completed before they could implement DTS's instructions, I don't know. Just a caution.
Disc one contains a routine number of bonus items, all of them in standard definition, starting with a low-key audio commentary by director Roger Donaldson, actress Saffron Burrows, and composer J. Peter Robinson. Next, there are a pair of featurettes: "Inside the Bank Job" is a sixteen-minute behind-the-scenes segment and "The Baker Street Bank Raid" is a fifteen-minute summary of the real-life story, with actual crime-scene photos and comments from actual participants in the tale. Then, there is a series of brief deleted and extended scenes, lasting a total of about six minutes, with optional commentary.
The extras on disc one conclude with sixteen scene selections but no chapter insert; a widescreen theatrical trailer; bookmarks; English and French spoken languages; English and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Disc two contains a standard-definition digital copy of the feature film for use on Apple Macintosh or Windows PC DVD drives.
The refreshing thing about "The Bank Job" is that it isn't a conventional, flashy heist flick filled with elaborate schemes, exotic locales, and mastermind criminals. For that kind of thing you can find plenty of films like "Rififi," "Topkopi," "The Italian Job," "Inside Man," the "Oceans" series, or segments of "The Pink Panther," "Get Smart," and "National Treasure." Instead, "The Bank Job" concentrates on everyday hoods doing their best and just barely getting by. Not a great film, maybe, but a pretty nifty one in any case.
Final note: The rating for "Film value" below represents the averaged score from Tyler (5/10) and me (7/10). Although Tyler didn't like the movie as well as I did, the composite score nevertheless reflects a decent, upper-middling film on which people might want to take a chance.