Last night I had excellent plans: eat my whopper of a salad, drink my soup bowl of tea, and watch Ocean’s Eleven. Too bad Canadian Netflix doesn’t carry Ocean’s Eleven. Damn. Determined not to have my night ruined, I turned to the obvious Clooneyless alternative: The Italian Job. These two movies are so close I often mix up the details. Which is the one with the gorgeous safe-cracker? Which one has the suave American or the mischievous Brit? And is this job pulled for love, revenge, or shits and giggles? I can hardly believe it’s been over a decade since The Italian Job remake hit the screens, but I love it now as I loved it then.
The motive of this film’s heist is vengeance. It starts off with a very clever robbery in Venice, planned with the dream of making six men filthy rich. The problem is Steve (Edward Norton) made other arrangements to keep everything for himself, leaving the rest of his group high and dry/low and wet at the bottom of an icy Alpine lake. However, Steve clearly underestimates their immunity to frostbite, and gets knocked off his socks several years later when the gang (plus one) returns to reclaim their gold. It’s now a contest between expensive security and raw creativity as they fight to find out who will be buying the speakers so loud they can blow women’s clothes off.
First off, what a cast. Charlie (Mark Wahlberg) leads a team of experts including the explosives technician, Left Ear (Mos Def), the gutless getaway guy, Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), the badass safe-cracker, Stella (Charlize Theron), and the hacker, Lyle (Seth Green). Their inspiration comes from their mentor/father figure, John (Donald Sutherland). The casting in this film is so well done that ever since 2003 I haven’t bothered to remember Handsome Rob’s real name. There’s no point. Telling people that “Handsome Rob” will be in suchandsuch upcoming film is as easily understood as saying, “Frodo Baggins has a new movie coming out.” As far as nicknames go, “Handsome Rob” isn’t the worst in the world.
But is this movie better than the original? The early 2000s spelled the golden age of remakes – some good, most just flashy. I have seen the original 1969 Michael Caine version, and I must say… the remake is better. Michael Caine was awesome in the original, but the rest was just blah. The Italian Job 2003 is funny like it’s ancestor, but also tense, purposeful, and an excellent 111 minute promo for Mini Coopers. They must have hired every stunt driver they could find in L.A. If you’re looking for a chance to procrastinate, go look up the stunt cast/crew list on IMDb. I lost track somewhere around 100 employees.
There are a few clichés which dampen the creativity, but they’re more or less to be expected in this kind of action feature. For example, someone says, “Stay cool,” and there’s a direct cut to guys loading their guns. There’s also the classic notion that the shifty-eyed, pencil-thin-moustached sleazeball can’t be all that bad until, naturally, he proves that he is. But, that said, there are also some great/cringe-worthy scenes with the Mini Coopers, and some slick comedy between the tech geek, the flirt, and the deaf pyro. I also marvel at the skills of these fictitious thieves, cracking safes by touch, under water, in a Venice canal. I’ve been to Venice, and that water is hardly a clear ocean-blue: I’d say it’s less like aqua and more like green paint. Still, The Italian Job is a good old fashion, grudge-holding, murderously vengeful bag of fun. It kindly deserves a recommendation to watch and an 8/10.