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The Italian Job (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Pedal To The Metal: The Making of The Italian Job; Putting The Words On The Page For The Italian Job; The Italian Job Driving School; The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job; High Octane - Stunts of The Italian Job. 6 deleted scenes; Gag reel - Easter Egg; Theatrical trailer.

FILM fans were justifiably upset when it was announced that Hollywood would be remaking cult classic, The Italian Job, for fear of a Get Carter style botch job on one of cinema’s enduring favourites.

Yet the ensuing ‘contemporary update’ is actually a blast; a slick little joyride of a film that contains plenty of visual nods to Sir Michael Caine’s original, while also maintaining an identity all of its own, thanks to its completely different story.

The movie kicks off in Venice, as mastermind thief, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), pulls off an ingenious gold bullion heist from a heavily guarded palazzo with the help of his gang - inside man, Steve (Edward Norton); computer genius, Lyle (Seth Green); wheelman, Handsome Rob (Jason Statham); explosives expert Left-Ear (Mos Def), and veteran safecracker, John Bridger (Donald Sutherland).

Yet while the plan is flawless, the job executed perfectly, and the escape clean, Charlie gets double-crossed by Steve, who kills Sutherland’s father-figure and leaves the crew for dead, prompting the inevitable countdown to payback, and a repeat of the ‘Italian job’ in downtown Los Angeles.

Helping them to achieve this is Charlize Theron’s professional safecracker, Stella, who, as Bridger’s daughter, has her own reasons for gaining revenge.

What ensues is an elaborate, slickly-paced crime caper that owes more in style to the recent Ocean’s Eleven remake, than the kitsch value of the original, but which remains consistently enjoyable throughout.

The more stubborn Italian Job fans may lament the absence of Michael Caine (even in cameo form), or the lack of a really decent sound-byte quote (such as ‘you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’), but even the most hardened cynic can’t fail to be impressed by the real star of the show, the MINI, which, once more, shamelessly hogs the limelight.

And what’s more, the stunts are real and not computer-generated, making the climactic chase down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, through the Metro Rail tunnels and down narrow escape routes all the more thrilling, while helping the car to reclaim its ‘cool’ status.

Director, F Gary Gray, also does an excellent job of maintaining the interest ahead of the showpiece finale, by keeping things suitably tense, throwing in the odd twist, and drawing decent performances from virtually all of his cast.

Wahlberg may lack the Cockney charisma of a young Michael Caine, but his decision to play it straight actually works, and allows the support players to ham it up gleefully (with Green taking the comedy crown), while even Norton - who, allegedly, was contractually obliged to make the film - uses his apparent distaste for the project to create a suitably loathsome villain.

The Italian Job surprised many in America by becoming one of the sleeper hits of the year, and looks likely to repeat the trick in the UK, largely because of the gleeful abandon with which it sets about delivering its thrills.

And while it probably won’t be remembered as fondly as its original in years to come, and falls short on achieving the desired ‘cool’ of one of Steven Soderbergh crime thrillers, it remains an effortlessly breezy romp, that makes for a great night at the cinema. In a Summer packed with overblown disappointments, it was the MINI things that prevailed.

 

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