Heist movies, whether a casino, a bank or a jewelry store, have always been a fantastic source of material for films and The Bank Job not only, obviously, focuses on robbing a bank, it’s also based off of a true story. While you may not have heard of the majority of the cast, aside from Jason Statham who has made a name for himself lately, The Bank Job isn’t worried about star power—and neither are the critics. The film, despite having a low box office intake, was praised by critics for its entertaining and superb action and pacing. The Bank Job stars Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner, and Stephen Campbell Moore.
Terry Leather (Statham) and his group of friends aren’t known as the greatest criminals in London, but when Terry is approached by Martine Love (Burrows), a long time acquaintance of Leather, about a bank job, Terry and his friends can hardly resist. Although fret with complications, the job is pulled off with relative ease, but their real worries don’t start until after the heist is pulled and the crew learns about what exactly it was that they took from the vault when a Black Power leader, the MI-5, corrupt detectives, a local porn king and even the Royal Family start to come after them.
I made the mistake of assuming that this film was going to be some kind of generic Jason Statham thriller movie and I hadn’t even realized it was based on a true story until reading over the casing. Of course I’m a sucker for “based on” type films, so I was roped in immediately by that promise alone. It should also be noted that those that are of the faint of heart should avert their gaze for the opening of the film, as there’s quite a bit of naughty imagery that fills the screen for the first few minutes of the film.
It’s hard to peg this film down. At first I thought it was because I just wasn’t used to British heist films, but then I remembered how entertaining I found so many other British films as of late to be and realized it wasn’t something about the accents that was hindering my enjoyment of it. Something about it just seemed off and while I still can’t peg it down exactly, I think it had more to do with the fact that, while based off of a true story, this just wasn’t that interesting of a movie. When I realized this, I discovered that it really was because it was a British based film.
Let me explain that a bit. I may be a bit close minded in saying this, but if a film is based on events of a nation I know little about, I’d be less inclined to be surprised by anything in particular that happened for the duration of the film. As an example I can point out Charlie Wilson’s War as a “based on” film that I absolutely loved, but because it was based on America, where I grew up, I associated myself more with that story than with some photos of a scandal the Royal Family had.
Having said that and now knowing where the disconnect stemmed from, I was able to look back on the film with a bit more of a positive eye. It wasn’t that the film was uninteresting, poorly acted or directed (in fact, it was the very opposite of all three), it was just that I wasn’t as wrapped up in it because its location and historical context. For some reason I just wasn’t all that impressed by the “shocking” elements of the film, though I think that has to do with more being desensitized by the media rather than anything.
When I went back to watch the film with the commentary, I kept this viewpoint in mind and while I can’t say I enjoyed the film anymore, at least I wasn’t so uncomfortable watching it. I don’t want it to sound like I’m prejudice or don’t care about the British, it’s just that I haven’t honestly been exposed to much of their history to truly appreciate the gravity of the situation that this film presented. Although I thought about all of this while re-watching the film, the gravity of the mixture of individuals associated with that one bank finally did hit me. I mean a Black Power leader, MI-5, corrupt cops, porn king and the Royal Family all associated with one little vault in a bank in London? That’s impressive all by itself.
There were still areas of the film I felt that were needlessly slow (the sequences with the discussion of the photos of the Royal Family by government officials slammed the film into a brick wall every time they popped up), but for expositions sake I guess they had to toss that information in somehow. Aside from that, however, the film kept a steady pace and the run time, clocking in ten minutes shy of two hours, was adequate for a film of this nature.
Another element to mention was the music and direction of the film. J. Peter Robinson created a great mixture of licensed music and a score that really created the necessary tensions during scenes. Director Roger Donaldson also did a superb job with setting up shots; the tunnel digging sequences were claustrophobic and the angles used in the vault raid served to help keep the tension alive. On top of those two elements we got some truly great performances by our cast, including Statham who mixed up his usual tough-guy persona into a more caring and (sometimes) relaxed husband and father. In addition to that we had someone playing John Lennon who looked remarkably like him. I looked up his profile on IMDb and was surprised to find that he was only in two films…and in both films he played Lennon. Guess his career has a start somewhere, at least.
Overall, despite my initial disinterest in the film, it grew on me on the second viewing. Knowing what to expect from this film makes all the difference; it’s not a mindless summer blockbuster and there is quite a bit more dialogue and character exposition than you normally get from a “heist” film, so don’t expect a mindless and easy to breeze by ride. Recommended.
The Bank Job arrives on a packed Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lionsgate not only “gets” the DVD and Blu-ray formats, but they consistently blow me away with the quality of the extras and technical presentation of their films. While the extras load for The Bank Job isn’t as hefty as other Lionsgate releases, they’re all quality extras worth watching, not to mention the technical presentation of the film is enough to warrant a look. The casing is a standard dual-disc Blu-ray case (the second disc is a Digital Copy, don’t get too excited) with a reflective foil insert. Inside the case is the digital copies serial number as well as an advertisement for other Blu-ray releases.
And now…for the specifications! The films presentation, a 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer, looks fantastic and presents the films subdued color pallet perfectly. Due to the muted colors, nothing really “pops”, but there’s enough clarity here to count the stubble on Statham’s face, so no worries about lack of clarity. The accompanying 7.1 DTS HD MA track is incredible, utilizing the surrounds in a myriad of ways, although the subwoofer rarely gets exploited, simply because the film itself isn’t exactly something that’s going to rock the house.
Moving onto the extras, all in 480p, we first have “Inside The Bank Job” (16:44), a making-of featurette for the film filled with cast and crew interviews. What’s nice is it doesn’t just focus on the film, but the events that inspired it, so those looking for more history on the events this film is based on will be treated to some history. In addition to the elements pulled from the actual event that are used here in the film is the “The Baker Street Bank Raid” (14:53), which focuses entirely on the heist and includes archival footage mixed in with the film clips and film crew commentary. Finally there’s the Deleted and Extended Scenes (6:15), with Optional Audio Commentary by director Roger Donaldson, Actress Saffron Burrows and Composer J. Peter Robinson. There isn’t much cut here, but it’s a nice little extra for those wanting more.
The film itself has a commentary by director Roger Donaldson, Actress Saffron Burrows and Composer J. Peter Robinson, all of whom keep it interesting throughout. It can get a bit dry, but there are plenty of on-set stories told, as well as what it was like working with the other actors and crew on the film. Nothing particularly revealing that you couldn’t gleam from just watching the film, but worth a listen if you enjoyed the film.
Overall The Bank Job comes Recommended. It’s deeper in story and detail than you’d think, so be prepared to pay attention to what’s happening on screen and don’t just assume this is another mindless heist film (like I did).
The Bank Job is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.