>Director Roger Donaldson’s “The Bank Job” is a wonderful escapist bit of high fashion fun. The film, based in part on a true story, is set in London in the early 1970’s. The characters wear great clothes and drive cool cars; and the story involves royal scandal, a heist, Black Panther politics, MI-5, blackmail, gangsters. That is pretty much all you need to know, so go watch it if it strikes your fancy.
For those who need a bit more persuading, allow me to say first off that this is not a film for the kiddies, or even necessarily for adults. Although the scenes in question do not go for the jugular, there are a number of what we would call adult moments in the movie. With that caveat, and a promise not to get into too much detail with the more sensitive topics raised in the film, allow me to give a brief summary of the plot.
The wonderfully-named Terry Leather (played by Jason Statham) is running an unsuccessful car lot when he is approached by an old flame, the equally-well-named Martine Love (the mesmerizing Saffron Burrows.) Martine proposes that Terry gather together a crew to pull off a bank heist in Marylebone – where, as it happens, I used to live. Unbeknownst to Terry, Martine has been forced into doing this by MI-5, who need her to obtain the contents of a particular safe deposit box in the bank; if she fails to cooperate she will be prosecuted for drug smuggling.
Gathering together various experts in the vein of “The Ladykillers” or “Ocean’s Eleven”, the film proceeds much as one might expect – enjoyably, albeit somewhat predictably. At the same time, various subplots are developing involving, inter alia, the Crown, various members of Parliament, and a black power organization. However, the viewer is predominantly focused on the details of the heist, and the personal relationships of those involved, so that some of this exterior character development seems at first to be mere camera fodder.
And then, once the bank job is pulled off, things become very, very complicated indeed. To try to explain the very tangled tale that Donaldson suddenly brings together into a more-or-less cohesive whole would be to spoil the fun in watching the film. Suffice to say, there is a great deal of mayhem that occurs, and the viewer will hopefully have been paying attention throughout the film in order to understand how this almost Russian-scale cast of characters and sub-plots are all somehow related to each other.
Statham is as engaging as ever, a sort of thinking man’s Bruce Willis, but it is really Burrows that held my attention. She is beautiful, yes, but she is also very evocative of a Roger Moore-era Bond girl. The screen loves her, and the way she moves about comfortably within its dimensions is truly something to see. There are not many actresses anymore of this level of what used to be called “glamour”.
The supporting and cameo roles played by actors well-known by appearance if perhaps not by name to American audiences, via imported British television on PBS, will no doubt bring many viewers pleasure. As you watch the light goes on upstairs, and you suddenly recognize whom you are watching. “Hey isn’t that…?” Yes, it is.
Although not a flawless film – and indeed there are a few pieces of the plot which I felt did not tie up neatly, or tied up TOO neatly – “The Bank Job” is very enjoyable entertainment. Its sensibilities are, perhaps, more geared toward the male viewer than the ladies among my readership, and there are some stock female characters who never develop; moreover women are often treated as objects in the film, but one should keep in mind the time period in which this was set. Truthfully, there were some scenes whose detail seemed unnecessary, as much as one recognizes that they are indicative of the times.
Nevertheless, on the whole the politics, the complex weaving of the plot, and the tension of seeing whether they are going to pull this off will engage many viewers.