Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery which was hushed up at the time of a Government gagging order. The real story of how one of the biggest robberies in British history took place. Business is slow for Terry Leather, a London car dealer married with children. He's an artful dodger so Martine a former model with a thing for him brings him her scheme: a bank's alarm is off for a couple weeks so let's tunnel into the vault. He assembles a team not realizing her real goal is a safe-deposit box with compromising photos of a royal: she needs the photos to trade for avoiding a jail sentence. A Trinidadian thug, a high-end bordello owner and a pornographer also have things stored in the vault so the break-in threatens many a powerful personage. Is there any way these amateurs can pull it off?
The proverbial crime caper genre gets an energetic addition in the form of Roger Donaldson’s “The Bank Job”. Based on the 1971 London vault cleanout on Baker Street dubbed the “walkie-talkie robberies”, it recounts how a gang of lowlifes become involved in one of the most successful bank robberies in history. Though the detection of the thieves’ chit-chat (which earned the robbery its nickname) made headline news, everything went surprisingly quiet after a few days.
Various conspiracy theories abound but the script by Dick Clement and Ian La Francais settles on a royal scandal, police corruption and a certain charismatic if dubious black-community leader called Michael X. It’s only natural that with all these story threads the story takes a while to set itself up. But rest assured that your 40 minutes of patience is well worth the wait- once the robbery gets underway, the movie becomes a brisk and gripping affair as the multiple plotlines intertwine and finally culminate in a thrilling climax.
Besides demonstrating a competent hand at moving the story along efficiently, director Roger Donaldson also displays a proficient ability at recreating the mood and feel of the 1970s. Indeed, there is a real sense of authenticity to the film, from its costumes to its sets to its dialogue. Even each one of the many characters looks and feels of the era- and in a film with so many personalities, it is also Donaldson’s accomplishment that they manage to be so well differentiated.
Certainly, he has a terrific cast to thank for that as well. One of the most charismatic actors around, Jason Statham gives one of the best performances of his career since his breakout hit in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. His role as Terry, the leader of the gang, may be quite unlike his usual flashy roles in Crank or the Transporter series, but he emulates a low-key charm that suits his character just fine. Also outstanding is Saffron Burrows’ melancholic performance as Terry’s old flame- with a secret to hide- that holds up just nicely amidst the rest of the blokes in the film.
Yes, the real life inspiration behind “The Bank Job” was one filled with scandal, crime and corruption, all three elements that proved great fodder for news, rumours and gossip. And here, Donaldson has admirably translated these juicy subjects- while certainly taking some liberty with his material- into an exciting caper flick. In the right hands, real stories can make very entertaining reel stories, as “The Bank Job” amply proves.
The choice to present this in 4:3 format, instead of the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen, is puzzling since one can easily see that a fair bit of detail has been cropped out to fit the DVD’s aspect ratio. Otherwise, the disc’s visual transfer retains the washed-out, faded look of the film that gives it an extra retro vibe. The audio is only presented in Dolby 2.0 and could certainly do with some added clarity.
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 13 June 2009