F. Gary Gray's "The Italian Job" is an enjoyable caper flick starring a good number of well-known actors who are using this film as padding before their next big flick, in the same way you would compare Steven Spielberg to “Catch Me if You Can.”
The movie opens with John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and his gang of thieves getting ready to steal $35 million in gold bars from a Venetian palazzo. The team includes Charlie (Mark Wahlberg), the one responsible for seeing the operation through; Steve (Edward Norton), the second-ranking thief under John; Lyle (Seth Green), the obligatory computer genius; Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), the getaway driver, and Left-Ear (Mos Def), the street-explosives technician.
Because Venice is a floating city, we get to see an exciting boat chase through the canals of Venice after the gold is stolen. The real life canals of Venice are more congested with boats than the film suggests, but enough obstacles are thrown in the way to make the chase more thrilling, and of course more dangerous.
The successful heist leads our team atop the mountainous Alps where the gold is to be transported, but one of the team players (I’ll spare those who haven’t seen the trailer) betrays the group, commits murder, and escapes with the gold leaving the rest for dead.
We now shift to Los Angeles where the mole currently resides and is profiting from the entire jackpot. Charlie, who has now taken over as team leader, decides the group needs the help of John’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), who is the best safecracker in town, as it is her legal profession. Only Stella will able to able to break into the safe hiding the gold once theirs. It is a mystery why she was never coaxed into joining the group years before, where her services would have been more appreciated and better paid.
With Stella now recruited, it will be up to the remaining players to seek revenge on the mole and reclaim their fortune in a battle of wits and outfoxing. It’s not necessary if anyone dies or if the mole is killed for committing his own murderous acts against his former crew; this game is about who is the smarter man; who can recapture the gold, or who can keep it.
Stella’s car, the Mini Cooper, is actually the star of the show. Used in the original "The Italian Job" (1969), the new models allow our heroes to drive through very narrow spaces and maneuver the crowded streets of Los Angeles. So small and versatile that we see these things (three of them) riding down the subway stairs and onto the tracks, over ramps and between helicopter blades.
As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t the type of film that requires serious acting; both Edward Norton and Mark Wahlberg have seen better roles, but I highly enjoyed the supporting characters and how their induced comedy is integrated into the plot. Take the scene where Lyle’s nickname for an operation is something-Hymen. He complains of always getting the weak nicknames, and pleads to Charlie to be renamed Napster, as he claims to be the original creator of the notorious file-swapping program before Shawn Fanning stole it while he was napping, thus the name--Napster.
The joke is stretched out, as we know Lyle has no reason to complain over Napster’s lost, because his abilities exceed those of any software programmer. During the attempt to get the gold back, Lyle uses his magic to control the flow of electricity into their target’s home, and he even gets control over the entire grid of streetlights in Los Angeles, where he displays on the screens inside of the command center, “You will never shut down the real Napster.” Then we have Left-Ear, whose fear of dogs stemmed from a previous “bad experience.”
My favorite character is Handsome Rob, who is played by Jason Statham. Both identities are brilliant. When Lyle complains of being called Hymen, he refers to Rob getting to be called, Handsome Rob. Charlie simply replies, “well, Rob is handsome.” This is true, as we see him do his work as a seducer to distract his mark to complete his objectives. But he is also a stud in the car where he is the all-important getaway driver. You may recall Statham having a similar role as the star of the action-packed film, “The Transporter.”
As fun as “The Italian Job” is, there is very little brains behind the concept, and that may actually bring down the fun-factor somewhat, especially for those looking for a smart cat-chase-mouse movie. Don’t bother doing the math in your head or questioning the logic in these blueprints, but then again, when the competing films in the Top 10 this week are “Finding Nemo,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Matrix: Reloaded,” and “X2: X-Men United,” is it fair to demand accuracy this time of year on the summer movie calendar?
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