If the government didn't want stealing to be such a popular crime, then they should never have made it so damn cool.
That's Uncle Sam for you, though. Always taking away our most treasured rights, like the right to take other peoples' stuff, even as they fill the capital with monuments to Jesse James and the Hamburglar. Meanwhile, the movie industry inundates us with heist films like Mad Money or the new The Bank Job, promising eternal happiness is only a bank robbery away.
And thank god for that. Movies about stealing are almost as fun as stealing itself -- a bad-ass heist scene can almost justify everything that comes before and after it. The job in The Bank Job isn't bad-ass -- misunderstood-ass, maybe -- but that and some over-the-top plotting are enough to outweigh its imaginative shortcomings.
The British Government's got a problem on its hands: they've got evidence to put kidnapping drug player Peter De Jersey away, but he's got sex pictures of the princess in a safe deposit box which he'll release if they try to put him on trial.
Not wanting to dirty their own hands, they convince local criminal Saffron Burrows to rob the bank for them. She talks petty crook Jason Statham and his team to help her out -- without telling them who they're working for or how they might well bring down the wrath of all kinds of dangerous people on both sides of the law.
Because it turns out people keep some scandalous stuff in deposit boxes. With the depositors' secrets at risk of being aired to the public and the authorities, Statham and Co., are barely out of the bank before they're being hounded by pornographers, politicians, thugs, and corrupt cops, all of whom would rather plant him in the ground than see their dirty business exposed.
It's this horde of interested parties, all after Statham and his crew, that gives The Bank Job some kick. Otherwise, it's pretty standard stuff, right down to the fact Statham's a family man pulling one last big score to the supporting cast that's decent enough but no more colorful than a Crayola 12-pack. Incidentally, how do you make a movie where Jason Statham ends up pretty ho-hum? I could watch that guy writing Christmas letters to his great aunt and come away feeling like I just saw 40 billion Death Stars explode.
And with the 80 jillion do-badders on the thieves' tails, the suspense lasts long after the robbery itself -- but all these people who end up coming after Statham and pals means the story sprawls in its early going. Think you'll be interested in the dealings of teeny tiny characters in sub-sub-plots that don't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the movie? Really? Well, that's weird of you, because they're not very interesting at all.
They're there, most likely, because The Bank Job is based on a true story, and these minor characters existed in real life. Well, OK. Good for them for having been alive.
The thing about fiction, though, is it's better than real life -- at least when it's done well. You can cut out the irrelevant stuff, stay tight on what matters. If, for instance, I were to tell you the story of how I was once voted America's greatest lover, I would probably leave out the part where Keira Knightley started dressing in a wizard hat after she heard how often I watch The Lord of the Rings. I would definitely skip past the time I beat a car-sized centipede in a boxing match -- I'm not too humble to admit it was impressive, superhuman, even, but I just don't see the relevance to the matter at hand.
So while I'm down with writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' sense of humor, their ability to keep a lot of balls in the air at once, and their agreeably sleazy style, I'm less OK with their decision to include a bunch of junk with no relevance to Statham or any of the other guys we care about. It just waters down a movie that's got a good heist and a good crew but in too many ways is as uninspired as its title.