Click here 3 and a half stars

Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham
Crime and the family

"The Italian Job"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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It started out as a perfect heist. The brazen pilfering of Venetian gold, misdirection to lead pursuit away, and the recovery of the ill-gotten gains. Better still, this wasn't the work of mastermind John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), who is looking to get out of the game for good, but of his protege, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), who is taking over the crew.


Donald Sutherland

Charlize Theron
Unexpectedly, they are betrayed by Steve (Edward Norton) one of their own, who wants all the gold for himself. Knowing that Bridger has an aversion to carrying guns, Steve brings a few of his own and uses them. Most of the crew gets away, but John Bridger does not.

Fast forward a few years. The crew has managed to track down the elusive Steve back to Los Angeles, and are just itching for a little payback - not to mention the gold they stole. Left Ear (Mos Def), Napster (Seth Green) and Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) have reuited with Charlie, but they need an expert safecracker to take John's old role. It so happens that John's daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) has become an excellent safecracker, after a fashion; she is a security consultant who tests the vulnerability of safes for large corporations.

She's not really interested in ill-gotten gains, but it turns out she is very interested in getting revenge on the man who killer her father.

As with most caper movies, there are twists, turns and suspense a-plenty. Some wonderful car chases, some terrific action sequences and a nice bit of poetic justice near the end, although I couldn't really call it an unexpected twist. Director F. Gary Gray is a bit too heavy-handed for that. He also has too many extraneous characters in the movie. I'm not sure if he's trying to do some misdirection of his own, but it doesn't work.

We could have done without the Russian mobsters and the informant, Skinny Pete. Frankly, some of the gang could have used a little more screen time.

Gray, however, cast this movie to near-perfection. Green is fast becoming the Steve Buscemi for a new generation; he is nervous, quirky and always entertaining when he is riffing on his own. Statham is still looking for that breakout role. He is perfectly cast as Handsome Rob, the driver. Statham is absolutely riveting when he is on screen, and he is going to be a big, big star before too long. Wahlberg is settling into an action-hero niche nicely, although I've found him to be one-dimensional at times; he still could use a bit more charisma, but he nicely fills the role of the resourceful mastermind here.

It is Charleze Theron who really caught my notice. I've never been very fond of her — she's always seemed kind of prissy in most of the movies I've seen her in, but she really holds her own, and quite frankly, she looks better than she ever has (I know, I know, I'm a shallow, shallow man). Edward Norton gets to be a smarmy bad guy, a role in which he excels.

The psychology of the movie is a little predictable; father-figure gets gunned down in front of the impressionable eyes of the hero, who seeks justice and gets it without getting his hands dirty. You know that the trigger-happy Norton is going to get his at the end of the movie, but you can't have the hero getting his hands dirty; Hollywood might be going retro, but the anti-hero is a bit too retro for the tastes of most studios. I think it's a bit hypocritical to line up Wahlberg as a criminal, but then he's not a murderer, so he's not too bad a guy. Of course, I could just be getting too grumpy in my old age.

Some movies should never be remade. Others can benefit from an updating. The 1969 Michael Caine caper movie on which this one is based is not what you would call a classic, but it is a movie of its time. That said, ''The Italian Job'' does what another remake, 2001`s ''Oceans 11'' set out to do; take a movie of its time and make it timeless. ''Oceans 11'' succeeded in its attempt, which isn't as easy as it sounds. ''The Italian Job'' doesn't quite become timeless, but it is an entertaining movie, certainly worth checking out.

AT HOME OR AT A THEATER?
It won't lose too much on the smaller screen.

DVD:


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