Preview by: Jack Foley
MENTION The Italian Job to any genuine film fan and you are likely
to put a smile on their face, or provoke a quote, such as 'you
were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off'.
Michael Caine's seminal 1969 caper classic remains one of the
best-loved movies of all-time, frequently appearing in best of...
lists for its classic clifftop ending, the memorable car chases
and, of course, that quote.
Now try mentioning the remake. Fans immediately scowl, or vow
never to see it. Caine fans, in particular, should rightly be
wary, especially as the last Hollywood remake of one of his classic
movies found Sylvester Stallone taking on Get Carter - and heading
straight to video as a result.
Remakes very seldom match the giddy heights achieved by their
predecessors, yet The Italian Job could yet surprise by being
one of the better versions.
Not so much a remake, as a reworking, the film finds Mark Wahlberg's
Charlie Croker as a career criminal who heads a crew that masterminds
a massive gold bullion heist, made possible when they create the
largest traffic jam in Los Angeles history.
While the traffic disables the populace (and the cops), the criminals
are empowered by their use of Mini Coopers, which are incredibly
fast cars but also small enough to travel on sidewalks and the
subway system while the city and the cops are immobilized.
The film is directed by F Gary Gray (of The Negotiator fame) and
co-stars the likes of Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham,
Seth Green, and Donald Sutherland - as well as the modern Minis,
And as the hype-machine enters second gear, the talk is not of
bettering the original, but of creating an alternative version
- with the locations changed and the premise slightly different.
In a recent interview with BBC Online, Seth Green acknowledged
that the British reaction to the film was one of the biggest stumbling
blocks in its path to success, particularly given that Get Carter
was, in his opinion, a 'poor retelling of a classic story'.
"The movie starts out with the perfect heist and we're double-crossed
from within our own crew and spend the rest of the movie trying
to recapture our treasure," he explained further. "So,
we utilise the new Minis, which actually had to be souped-up for
Green, who takes on the Benny Hill role, admits to being attracted
to the project because of the quality of the script which, he
claims, is 'sharp and fun, and has great style'.
"Although the movie's different than the original, it's got
that same jubilance to it where you really get excited about siding
with the criminals," he adds.
Likewise, Jason Statham, who told Empire Online, recently, that
it 'would be silly to try to make a direct copy', of the original,
before promising that there are a lot of new characters in it.
In fact, according to Statham, the only characters that remain
the same from the original are Charlie Croker, which Mark Whalberg
plays, and Bridger, played by Donald Sutherland.
"It's a big, big movie, very grand and very expensive, with
some brilliant car chases," he added. "The way we steal
the gold is ingenious."
Remaking something as widely loved as The Italian Job was always
going to be a difficult task to pull off, but the critical reaction
from America suggests that the cast and crew might just have got
away with it!
While there were plenty of negative notices, there were also
many positives to be found among the Internet round-ups - as well
as those who sat on the fence.
Leading the way is the New York Times, which said that
the remake feels 'like a smooth, exciting whoosh down a ski slope',
while Variety felt that it was 'a generally better movie
than the satisfying 1969 caper'.
The Boston Phoenix referred to it as 'a pleasing, if preposterous,
spectacle', while the Chicago Tribune opined that it is
'an entertaining picture, classy and well executed'.
Reel Views, however, said that it 'isn't a masterpiece,
but it gets the job done', and awared it three out of four.
And the San Francisco Chronicle referred to it as a 'fun,
brainless, summer-popcorn, car commercial'.
The Hollywood Reporter delivered a similar conclusion,
stating that 'even if there's little question that the good thieves
will triumph, the film generates a good share of tension'.
And the Philadelphia Inquirer raved that 'The Italian
Job zooms along with confidence, smarts, and some of the coolest
car chases this side of the Indy 500'.
Better still, was the Los Angeles Times, which felt that
'even though the 1969 original Italian Job had Michael Caine in
the title role, carrying out the plans of imprisoned criminal
mastermind Noel Coward, this new version has it all over the original'.
Less impressed, however, was Entertainment Weekly, which
awarded it a B- and wrote that it is 'glib, violently unreal,
and gone in 60 seconds'.
The Onion's A.V Club, meanwhile, predicted that it 'could
be the season's breakout pretty-okay-second-choice film'.
Still reserved, but verging on the positive, was the New York
Daily News, which wrote that 'the new cast is more decorative
than quirky, but they get the job done'.
Staying in the Big Apple, the New York Post led the negative
vibe, stating that 'watching 'The Italian Job' in a theater makes
you long for a fast-forward button'.
And Planet Sick-Boy referred to it as a 'by-the-numbers
heist flick whose only notable aspect is that its trailer gives
away approximately 98 percent of the entire film'.
Slant magazine summed it up as 'tedious', while TV
Guide got bitchy, by stating that 'when a pint-sized automobile
has more sex appeal than Charlize Theron, something is seriously
out of whack'.
FilmCritic.com, meanwhile, awarded it two out of five,
and opined that it 'has only one thing going for it, and that's
a killer heist staged in gridlocked Los Angeles traffic'.
Likewise, USA Today, which felt that it is 'a lazy and
in-name-only remake of 1969's G-rated Michael Caine heist pic'.
And the Los Angeles Daily News lamented that 'I just wish
the movie hadn't kept getting in the way of watching the cars'.
However, let us hope that the Washington Post verdict
is the one which sums it up best, as this wrote that The Italian
Job 'cheerfully puts the escape back in escapism' - which is surely
what the silly season movie is all about.
The Italian Job is due to open in UK cinemas on September 12,
and we will deliver our verdict then...