"We're not bank robbers, Martine."
“The Bank Job” has the requisite stuff of a good bank heist movie: a beautiful woman and interesting thieves. Based on an actual 1971 robbery in London, this one has its tongue nicely in its cheek. Both thieves and lawmen are an incompetent lot, a twist that allows us to enjoy the heist in a state of minimal tension. Main problem, though not a fatal one: it doesn’t know what it wants to be.
The beautiful woman is Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), an ex-model with a spectacular set of angled bones. She is approached by her sometime lover Tim (Richard Lintern), a ranking up and comer in MI-5 who asks her to assemble a team for a robbery of Lloyds Bank. Her team can keep all the cash and walk away if they will just deliver the contents of Box #118. Martine recruits her team through Terry Leather (Jason Statham), hapless owner of an auto repair shop who protests “we’re not bank robbers, Martine,” but caves in to her response, “You’ve always been looking for the big score, the one that makes sense of everything.” Terry assembles a gaggle of nice guy incompetents and puts Eddie (Michael Jibson) on a neighboring roof with a walkie talkie for relaying the unfolding events on the street below.
From two doors away, they tunnel their bumbling way beneath Chicken Inn, whose dishes rattle from the jackhammer vibrations, and into the Lloyds vault while Eddie’s reports from the roof are picked up by a ham radio operator who summons the police. This is technological 1971, remember, and the cops can do no better than to send their cars to every bank on Baker Street looking for Eddie and his walkie talkie.
At this point the thieves do not know that their real goal is the photographic record of Princess Margaret’s bed play in safety deposit box #118; nor does anyone realize that another box contains the ledgers and pictures of London’s leading porn king whose customers include the highest players in the British establishment, including Tim’s superiors at MI-5.
One of the nicest surprises is that Terry, the head burglar, is an honorable friend and a family man whose love of his wife and children lies at the core of everything he does. From these dueling motivations, Actor Jason Statham builds Terry into an endearing character.
On the downside, the filmmakers saw fit to throw in a horrific torture scene that is absolutely unnecessary in a film that is basically a lighthearted caper. The sting of these scenes drains the air from the high flying balloon. London’s establishment has their hats handed to them in a series of sex scandals that take us for an ugly walk through that seamy and popular part of the culture. But whenever we are in the company of Martine and her team of basically good hearted bumblers we root for them to make their modest dreams come true.
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