Heist movies are formulaic by definition, but when filmmakers follow the formula well, it makes for a highly satisfying flick. As proof, I present The Bank Job, which is the kind of movie you go see just because you're in the mood for a movie but walk away from highly entertained. It's not star-studded, nor a showcase for fine acting, but it possesses the two essential elements of a good heist movie: a well-written script and smart directing.
Directed by Roger Donaldson (The Recruit, Cocktail), The Bank Job centers on a pack of amateur crooks led by Terry Leather (Jason Statham ), who gets a tip from an old flame named Martine Love (Saffron Burroughs) about a vulnerable vault of safe-deposit boxes. The fact that the two main characters are named Leather and Love suggests is an early sign that this movie doesn't take itself too seriously. But the comedic caper takes some dark turns and pulls off both vibes very well, so read more.
The thieves — "villains," in movie's parlance — don't know that the robbery has been orchestrated by the British secret service, who want to lift some highly secretive photos from the vault without being associated with the theft. Loosely inspired by a real-life 1971 bank heist in London, the caper ends up having much farther-reaching implications, including a royal-family scandal and corrupt cops who want revenge.
I won't reveal too much more of the plot: That is, after all, the main draw, and the action, while clever and never dull, isn't difficult to follow. What sets The Bank Job apart is its retro style. The color palette pays homage to '70s cinema, and it's refreshingly free of the high-tech hijinks that clutter up so many modern heist movies (The Italian Job and Ocean's 13 being prime offenders).
And unlike some action movies that begin to drag on once the main event is over, The Bank Job's denouement is just as riveting as the bank job itself — albeit much darker and more violent, so consider yourself warned. But if you're not the squeamish type, this film is a fun and fast-paced way to pass the slow Spring movie season.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate