Speedboats roar through the narrow canals, disturbing both the peace and the architecture, chased by waterborne competitors and police.


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis            

                Opening with a blast of music and action, “The Italian Job” lets us know quickly that we are in for some fun.   As an enormous safe plunges through two floors of a Venetian townhouse into the targeted boat of thieves below, we are relieved instantly of the need to have anything in this movie make sense.  

                With a good cast and spectacular locations, the movie opens with one chase through the canals of Venice and closes with another in the streets of Hollywood.   We see Venice at top speed, but at least it’s Venice, not Scranton.  Speedboats roar through the narrow canals, disturbing both the peace and the architecture, chased by waterborne competitors and police.  But I’m ahead of myself.

                John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) is a master thief, pulled in for one last go by Charlie (Mark Wahlberg).  Mr. Sutherland, in the few scenes he is alive, typically gives his thief a special presence.  The Venice job – 35,000,000 in gold bars each bearing the mark of a Balinese dancer – is John’s grandest plan.    He has assembled his group of specialists in driving (for escapes), demolition (for safes, cars, buildings, trains), and computers (for grandiloquent schemes of disruption).  It’s a great generational mix with the older guys – the planners - depending on the younger ones to bring precision to the operation with their technical skills.  It’s a whole new world of thievery.  

                Back home, John’s daughter Stella (Charlize Theron), who learned her trade at her father’s knee, is an expert in breeching security of all kinds – the legal way – for cops and for the government we used to trust.  Theron and Sutherland are as charming a pair of safecrackers the movies have produced in a long time.  There is an unusual blend of wit and warmth in this caper.

After the first successful heist, the gang gathers on a mountaintop for toasts to a job well done.    At this triumphal moment, the traitor in their midst pulls off a murder that changes the lives of everyone there.  Safe to say that Edward Norton’s specialty is scaring the wits out of us as he did in “Primal Fear.”  He is cold to the bone.  The rest of the film could be called “The Revenge of Charlie and Stella.”

                How to raise a Hollywood street chase to the level of a gilded romp through the canals of Venice?  Easy, if you’re extremely clever.  Throw in four souped up BMW Mini Coopers – each 12’ long - that can stop dead on a dime, drive on sidewalks, barrel up and down the sides of an underground train tunnel, and slither swiftly through the dense thicket of Los Angeles traffic.  Then watch the computer freak crash the stoplight system with his laptop.  The final battle puts the villain in a big, lumbering SUV and the good guys in the zippy minis.  It warms the soul.  Guess who wins, and guess what we’ll all be driving next year.

Copyright (c) Illusion

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