Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore
Director: Roger Donaldson
Release Date: March 7, 2008
Running time: 110min
MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Lions Gate
It’s funny how a simple sentence can change your entire outlook on a movie.
“Based on a true story.”
We see it all the time preceding certain books and movies but its placement seems curious sometimes, no? It’s not like Saving Private Ryan felt the need to say that it was based on a true story. Why? Well, we kinda already figured that out. No, we see this disclaimer in front of movies that suggest that we may not otherwise believe what we are about to see had it not been for the fact that is was based on events that actually took place. Does anyone think The Blair Witch Project would have been half as successful had it not been for those five simple words? Exactly. The truth just feels more interesting. It’s actually quite a master stroke of marketing. It allows the filmmakers to play with the facts more than usually allowed because we the viewer tend to turn a blind eye to certain inaccuracies and embrace it as fact regardless of that voice in the back of our head asking “Did this REALLY happen?” I think Mark Twain said it best, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't.”
It is a fine line to walk though.
This brings us to The Bank Job. Based on an actual bank robbery in London in 1971, the story was alleged to have been hidden until now due to a government gag order to protect certain members of the British Royal Family. How it was hidden for almost 40 years until a Hollywood movie revealed the events as fact is beyond me but hey, they said it was so it’s gotta be true, right?
Terry Leather (Jason Statham) runs a fledgling car lot and is behind on debts to some people of a seemingly shifty nature. As if the clouds parted and a ray of coincidence shined below, Martine (Saffron Burrows), an old acquaintance of Terry’s shows up with a proposition for a job. You know, that “one last job” that plagues every other heist movie ever made. He assembles his crew of regulars and they begin planning the job. They are going after the safe deposit boxes in the vault of a bank on Baker Street in London. What they don’t know is that Martine has set them up on behalf of the British Secret Service, MI5, to obtain one specific deposit box that contains photos of a member of the Royal Family in a rather compromising position. Or positions, as it were.
The movie itself follows just about every convention of heist movie lore. Nothing even particularly noteworthy even happens during the heist itself, or so it seems. It is everything going on behind the scenes that make this movie worth its running time and work very, very well. The job itself is done about halfway through the movie and the rest of the time is spent unraveling the mess they don’t even know they’re in to begin with. I particularly took note of the fact that since the story is set in the 1970’s, the movie is forced to use of equipment of the time rather than imploring the use of intricate technology that no one understands simply for the “wow” factor. Quite a nice change of pace, for once.
Jason Statham is shaping up to be quite a charismatic action star. He is given room to work here and he does, very well. So long as he sticks to his Guy Ritchie movie roots and steers clear of anymore Jet Li collaborations, he should be well on his way.
The movie works because of Statham’s performance and the illusion of a simple heist story. The fun is seeing his crew get in way over their head and try to get back out of it. I have no idea if half of the movie is true or not, and I really don’t care. It’s not the reason I saw the movie or any part of the reason I liked it as much as I did.
But it sure didn’t hurt.
And there’s the rub.
*** out of ****