Movie-Hype #733 - THE BANK JOB
Here’s how THE BANK JOB goes down. In the first thirty seconds we get some nice Ebony/Ivory T&A, which we later learn is Princess Margaret. (At least, half of it.) Her little jungle fever session was photographed, and these pix are held by Michael Adbul Malik, or Michael X, a symbolic cousin to Malcolm X. (The film takes place in the early ‘70s., and the names have all been changed.)
Because of this, police can’t touch Michael X, who is a danger to the country for some reason. They find out Michael X is keeping the photos in a safety deposit box inside a bank. The British government can’t directly interfere, so they concoct a plan to have small-time thieves rob the bank, unaware that the real purpose is to get those photographs.
Tell me again, why the Royal family is necessary?
Further complicating matters:
A) The local police aren’t aware of what the government is up to, but they do become aware of the bank robbery.
B) Other bad guys are keeping things in this bank, including a madam with S&M pictures of MPs, and a local smut king with a ledger full of payouts to crooked cops.
This leads to half the police force trying to solve the crime, the other half trying to find and murder anyone involved, and the hapless spies of Her Majesty’s Secret Service sitting on their hands, hoping some two-bit hoods, who have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves involved in, can somehow pull the Bank Job off.
The characters and plot in the movie THE BANK JOB go in many unexpected directions from the typical heist movie. I think this is partly a reflection of British Crime Drama values. In my experience, Limeys prefer a more hard-boiled and semi-realistic approach to the charm and dazzle of their American counterparts.
Equally important; we’re told this movie comes from actual events. Usually that’s license to do whatever as long as a few of the names are right. In this case, it turns out to be far more accurate. Many of the things we see are there likely because they actually happened, beyond any script. Some will long for the slow lazy smile of a George Clooney and the knowing wink of a Brad Pitt, but others will appreciate a more subdued and low-tech approach.
As for the actors, everyone does a fine job, and the haircuts all match that early ‘70s feel (at least according to every Emmanuelle movie I ever saw while living up in Canada). The two main characters are worth mentioning:
Saffron Burrows. I only really recognized her from TROY, but she is L-U-S-C-I-O-U-S here. Her character gets arrested with heroin, and is forced to find patsies to rob the bank. (This is what passes for spy-craft in the Cold War: using a heroin smuggler to set up a robbery?) She used to roll with one of the “crew,” but always loved the other, who now happens to be married. Saffron (which by the way, was her given name at birth, in case GwynethPaltrow has any more kids), is the only one involved in the actual robbery who knows what’s going on. She feels guilty, but that’s the way the world works, right? Saffron has sort of a world-weary beauty, and I expect to see far more of her in the future.
Jason Stratham. This is my first film of his, and I didn’t know what to expect. It’s worth noting that my sister, who’s seen all his American films, was disappointed that he didn’t beat anyone up to the end. If you’re expecting THE TRANSPORTER, this is not that movie.
Having no expectations, I enjoyed his performance. Either from lack of range or a conscious choice to vastly underplay the role, Stratham never gives us much other than hard pensive looks and determination. That worked for me. There is a scene where he confesses to his wife what the hell is going on, and she suspiciously realizes the robbery was instigated from Saffron. (Mind you: beyond the danger, she’s not bothered in the slightest that her husband just robbed a bank, but that he robbed a bank with a hot woman…..) When confronted with questions ofhanky-panky, Stratham doesn’t lie or bluster or stall or even apologize. He just looks at her, hurt because he realizes he hurt her. The moment has a nice ‘70s morality to it. Men often cheated, with two small kids she wasn’t going anywhere, and he’s very aware of both facts. Stratham doesn’t vow to change his ways, but it’s like you see an evolving ethic, where maybe he will start to think differently. It’s as close to morality as the movie cares to get.
Speaking of morality….in my last few movie reviews I have mentioned Nihilism, the idea that there really is no Right or Wrong. British Crime Dramas (and hell: European movies in general) seem much more comfortable wearing this cloak. Maybe it’s a Euro thing. When American movies highlight bad guys, it is usually framed in a moral context, either straight-forwardly or ironically. Sure, you have the Tarrantino-like films of rabid amorality, but even then the criminal enterprise serves more as a metaphor and backdrop for the style and message of what’s happening; the mise en place, if you will.
The British films seem more at home with the idea that Crime is just another job; and we’re all working men, right? I was particularly struck during the robbery that the thieves were the least “bad” people in the film. There were hooligans, murderers, dirty cops, pornographers (in the worst sense), and betrayal. Hell, even the “adultery” I referred to earlier just the way things were. On top of all that, the government itself was orchestrating the whole sad affair, all to keep pictures out of the public eye.
In fact, one of the most interesting things I learned about the case, reading up on it later, is that the government issued a “D Notice,” which asks the media to stop reporting a certain story. This actually happens in the movie; the papers go from wall-to-wall coverage to a total blank out. This censorship move wasn’t even the law; the government merely “asks” the press to comply. Can you imagine the British press doing that now? (For that matter, why couldn’t they do that in the first place with the Princess Margaret photos? Oh, yeah: sex with a black man.)
THE BANK JOB actually happened, and to this day, neither the names of everyone involved or the length of their prison terms have never been reported. The files have been official sealed until 2054, and the scandal of corrupt officers led to a total overhaul of Scotland Yard.
All that peripheral stuff is more interesting than the simple heist, and to be honest, I might have preferred a movie that focused more on the political side. However, Hyperion Movie Rule #6: you judge the movie you have, not the movie you’d like to see. And THE BANK JOB is pretty decent, all things considered.
Suspension of Disbelief Index (out of 10): 1. I would give it a zero, but there’s no way Princess Margaret’s tits ever looks like that.
Genre Grade: As far as heist films go, I wouldn’t go any higher than a C. The heist just isn’t that interesting. However, as I’m now officially creating the British Crime Drama genre, I’ve give THE BANK JOB a solid B.
Sex/Violence? After the initial nudity, and more five minutes later, I had high hopes we’d be seeing nothing but skin. Sadly, it was all front loaded (no pun intended). For what it’s worth: what nudity there is seems more like scenery than for sexy purposes. There is a good deal of language, and while the violence might seem tame by today’s crime-film standards, there are some intimate murders that might disturb. If you let your high-schoolers look at Occasional Boobies (a great band name, btw), this should be okay for them. Otherwise make ‘em wait until they’re 17.
Pantheon Percentile (% of movies EVER this is better than): THE BANK JOB is not the greatest heist movie, crime movie, British movie, or (I’m guessing) Jason Stratham movie. I’d never buy it, but I might watch it again on cable. It was certainly worth watching once. 60.