The Italian Job (2003)

The Italian Job’ is equal parts dumb and equal parts entertaining, which makes for fine breezy summertainment. The cast is agreeable, the heist is interesting, the action is full of sexy cars and explosions; I call into question how in the world Jerry Bruckheimer’’s name is absent from this. Maybe he’’s too busy with his TV work.

The film opens up on a nifty heist in, of all places, Venice. Grizzled old-timer John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) leads his crew for, say it with me now everyone, one last heist. Charlie (Mark Wahlberg) is his second in command and the heir to the thievery throne. The crew steals a safe full of gold bars by applying explosive paint to specific levels of ceilings, causing the safe to drop two floors into the awaiting arms of our scoundrels. The Venice police believe the safe to be riding off in a boat, driven by the crew’’s getaway man Handsome Rob (the always good to have Jason Statham). But no the real safe has fallen into the canal and Charlie and John are scuba-safe-crackin’’. The crew gets away with their misdeed and toast about their thievery atop a mountainside.

Everything is good. But wait, Steve (Edward Norton) double-crosses his peers and hijacks the gold and kills John. Here’s what I don’t get. Everyone in the crew is shocked, especially an overactive and whiny Wahlberg (and there’’s no worse kind than a whiny Wahlberg). ““How could you do this?”” whines Whiney Wahlberg. Let me think here. Maybe it’s because … YOU’’RE ALL THIEVES, JACKASS! What was that old saying, no honor among thieves or something. To paraphrase ‘Go’, you guys aren’’t exactly in a highly ethical industry. There aren’’t good thieves and bad thieves; this ain’’t no Errol Flynn pic. I would also like to note that everyone in the crew should have known of Steve’s predestined treachery just by the fact that Norton has a mustache. C’’mon, do you need any bigger a sign? Anyway, the van the crew is in drives off a bridge into subzero water. Steve fires some round into the water and believes he’s killed his former crew. They of course are not dead and instead are using the scuba gear to breathe. Of course, it’’s still subzero temperatures but what does that matter?

We then flash to one year later. Dead John’’s not-so-dead daughter, Stella (Theron), conveniently works as a professional safe-cracker to tests security systems. Hmm, I wonder if that will come in handy later. Charlie approaches her with a plan to re-re-re-steal the gold from Steve, the man who, dramatic pause, killed her father. She agrees to help because she wants to see the look on Steve’’s face when he finds his money gone. It’s probably something very similar to many people over 40 I see now that the stock market is full of price-inflated charlatans.

What follows is Charlie reassembling his crew; Seth Green as the geeky tech dude, Handsome Rob, and Mos Def as the demolitions expert. Together they work out a plan that is part elaborate and part ludicrous, but still entertaining. This is where ‘The Italian Job’ gets the rules of heist cinema right: 1) Efficient amount of time must be made to plan the heist so the audience knows the steps and every role of importance. 2) The heist must go off for an extended period of time for the audience to enjoy the payoff of watching all the rehearsal proceedings. 3) The heist has got to be done in an interesting way. 4) Not everything has to go according to plan. The only real action sequences in ‘The Italian Job’ bookend the film, with the opening Venice heists and the later and extended Steve steal. With this said, the end still carries a good sense of payoff for the audience, and watching all of the different elements of the team work together with their own responsibilities builds a sense of attachment to these otherwise undeveloped characters.

I am convinced Mark Wahlberg is a black hole of acting. Sure, he can do Affable Lug fine and dandy as evidenced by ‘Boogie Nights’, but when Wahlberg attempts (and that is the operative word) to emote he looks like his leg is caught in a bear trap. His whole bland handsome understatedness isn’’t fooling me. Theron is a pretty face but I still haven’t seen anything she’s done to convince me she’s anything more. Green is very funny in his geeky role, complaining that he had the original idea for Napster and it was stolen from him by his roommate. Statham and Mos Def round out a likable if slightly one-note crew.

Director F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator) has graduated from the world of music videos but still knows how to stage some exciting scenes. The slick ending heist, with the L.A. gridlock, three trucks to chase after, and fleet of patriotic Minis is a great popcorn action set piece all the more appreciated because of the patient setup the movie has given.

In the days of summer, where some people wrongly consider a bloated and pretentious action film to be entertaining, even if they don’t get a lick of it, it’’s especially nice to have something like ‘The Italian Job’ remind us the escapist fun summer flicks can offer. Just don’’t worry if Wahlberg looks to be in pain.

Nate’s Grade: B-

About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at PictureShowPundits.com (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on June 2, 2003, in 2003 Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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