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A movie directed by F. Gary Gray

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Good (Predictable) Fun

  • Apr 5, 2005
  • by
Pros: Great action; how about those Mini Coopers?

Cons: Formulaic; largely predictable

The Bottom Line: The Italian job is imaginative in places, implausible in others, but always fun to watch.

There have been countless movies produced about the art (an science) of professional thievery; FX Networks is even basing a new show around the theme staring Andre Braugher of "Homicide: Life on the Street" fame. Most involve a gang of thieves, gee-wiz technology, things that go boom in the night, exhilarating (property destroying) car chases, and a beautiful woman. The forgoing is the standard formula with tweaks here and there to keep it interesting, but there is your basic formula for a movie about thieves.
The Italian Job starting Mark Wahlberg, Mos Def, and Charlize Theron is just such a movie; its formulaic, largely predictable, but a lot of fun to watch.

Directed by F. Gary Gray (Set it Off, Be Cool) The Italian Job opens in Venice, Italy as a gang of thieves led by Mark Wahlberg (The Substitute, Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm) portraying Charlie Croker, sets out to steal a safe full of Nazi-era gold bars worth about 34 million dollars. As in all gangs of thieves each member of the gang has his specialty:

Donald Sutherland (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Six Degrees of Separation, Space Cowboys), portrays John Bridger the old-school safe cracker who uses only his ear and instinct to help open safes. He only gets about ten minutes of screen time, before he is shot dead but not before he, as the wise old man of the bunch, dispense wisdom to the masses;

Seth Green (To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, Enemy of the State, American Sweethearts) portrays Lyle (“Napster”), the computer and electronics genius. He claims that he is the inventor of Napster, and that his roommate stole the idea from him;

Mos Def (Bamboozled, Monster’s Ball, Brown Sugar) portrays "Left Ear", the demolitions expert who gets his nickname from his exploits as a youngster when he planted a M-80 in the toilet, got too close and the resulting reverberation from the explosion left him deaf in one ear;

Jason Statham (The One, The Transporter, Cellular) portrays “Handsome Rob,” is the wheel man and has a way with the ladies;

Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Score, Red Dragon) portrays Steve (just Steve), and it not really quite clear what his specialty is other then a double-crossing murder and all around evil man.

The initial heist goes well; instead of breaking into the safe where it stood and removing the gold, the gang drops the safe through two floors where it lands in the canal underneath the building where Bridger breaks into it. Meanwhile a decoy safe is waiting in a boat underneath the same building and provides us with our first exhilarating (boat) chase through the fabled canals of Venice. Needless to say the gang escapes with the gold, but then they are double-crossed by Steve who takes all of the gold for himself, shots Bridger point-blank killing him. The gangs truck flips over into a ice covered reservoir and are left for dead by Steve who after all peppered the truck with automatic machinegun fire.
Predictably Bridger was close to Charlie and just so happens to have a daughter named Stella (does anyone really name their daughter Stella?) portrayed by a very un-monster looking Charlize Theron (Children of The Corn III, The Cider House Rules, Sweet, Monster) who just so happens to be a professional safe cracker. Although she is no thief, she lives life on the edge buzzing around town in a Mini Cooper; a car I hasten to add a woman of her stature would probably find very uncomfortable. A year after Charlie tells her that her father—whom she really never knew that well (predictable)—Charlie comes into her life again because he has caught up with Steve and knows where the gold is; only he needs Stella to crack the safe. At first (predictably) she refuses, but then rethinks her position after a night of soul searching she agrees to join the gang and exact revenge on Steve’s face—also very predictable.
My Impressions

Like I stated from the outset, there are few surprises in The Italian Job, the movie is just fun to watch. The performances were nothing to write home about, but they were by no means sub-par. Ms. Theron ended up with the meatiest part of the script, but Ed Norton was his usual cool collected self; its always hard to fathom what is going on behind his non-descript eyes. He plays the part of the murdering double-crosser rather well, though and the interplay between him and Theron is interesting to watch.

The chase scenes, both in and out of the water were thrilling to say the least, but during the Mini Cooper sequence I couldn’t help but wonder how all of that gold remained intact while these little cars went flying hither and yon. And of course during the boat chase sequence in Venice, in the end they got a way, but I kept wondering how…

Almost exciting as the chase scenes were the mechanics of the two operations; how the team used explosives to pin-point accuracy in order to steal the gold twice. And as a computer/ high tech geek, I took particular interest in the wireless technology used to reroute downtown Los Angles traffic, though how “Napster” was able to hack into the system was never really explored; we had to take it for granted that he could.

When all was said and done, and the credits rolls, all was well; the gang got the gold back, Steve was given over to some unsavory gentleman from the Ukraine (who these men are is explained in the movie), and (predictably) Charlie and Stella hook up. Now I wonder what The Italian Job II (now in post production) will be about?


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More The Italian Job (2003 movie) reviews
review by . March 26, 2009
A group of expert thieves led by mastermind Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and his father figure mentor, John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), successfully steals 35 million dollars worth of gold from a Venetian safe. But they are quickly double-crossed by one of their own partners in crime, who kills Bridger and forces the others to plummet into an icy river, leaving them for dead.    A year goes by and Croker contacts Stella (Charlize Theron), Bridger's daughter and a safe-cracking expert, …
review by . May 09, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Never before in the annals of product placement, not with Disney's Love Bug or Bond's Aston Martin has a car so thoroughly captured the imagination of its producer and director.  Beginning as three ordinary, if zippy and sassy little urban go-mobiles, the brave little Minis are transformed into brawny, high-powered brutes that lead motorcycles on a merry chase through-and under-the streets of Los Angeles.  The Coopers have great screen presence and their acting performance was …
review by . December 20, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Seth Green cracks me up, good times in general     Cons: I got a bit bored and impatient at times.     The Bottom Line: You can't go wrong when you've got a gold heist about to happen (sorta).     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. Now to be honest, I can't exactly compare this movie to the old one because, well, I haven't seen the old one. Ah well, it happens. But as a college girl who has plenty …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #189
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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After a master thief loses his heist in a double-cross he & his team set out to re-steal the loot by creating the largest traffic jam in la history.  F. Gary Gray's thoroughly entertaining caper film--a remake of the 1969 crime classic starring Michael Caine and Noel Coward--doesn't merely imitate the original, and that is what makes it such a pleasant, wholly refreshing surprise. Mark Wahlberg stars as Charlie Croker, a smooth thief who orchestrates a flawless heist in Venice with the help of his mentor, safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Together with his cronies--explosives expert Left-Ear (Mos Def), tech whiz-kid Lyle (Seth Green), adrenaline junky Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), and the shady Steve (Edward Norton)--Charlie walks away with $35 million worth of precious gold bars. But just when the gang appears to be headed to freedom, Steve performs a heist of his own, killing John and running off with the gold, thinking that Charlie and his mates are all deceased. A year later, Charlie has located Steve, who is gradually selling off the gold bars in Los Angeles. With the help of John's beautiful daughter Stella (Charlize Theron), a brill...
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Director: F. Gary Gray
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2003
Screen Writer: Donna Powers, Wayne Powers
DVD Release Date: October 07, 2003
Runtime: 1hr 50min
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
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