Published Mar 07, 2008One of these days, Jason Statham will try on a new wig or accent or persona and a generation of filmgoers will collapse in befuddlement. But that day is not yet upon us, and its the standard issue Statham hard Cockney outer layer, chewy candy centre that crops up in spiffing new Brit caper flick The Bank Job.
Set in 1971, and allegedly based on true-ish events, The Bank Job opens up on Stathams rag-tag cadre of low-echelon East London chancers as they brainstorm that one big, retire-to-Ibiza score. But, like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (to which comparisons will inevitably be drawn, even without the casting of Statham), the narrative quickly metastasises across overlapping viewpoints and plotlines, folding in psychotic backroom crime bosses, cops (both dirty and clean), spooks from MI5 and possibly 6, naughty Profumo-esque MPs, a preposterously leggy model/drug mule and a faux-freedom fighting Jamaican drug gang.
And thats just the dramatis personae. Sprinkle on a full menu of MacGuffins an incriminating ledger, an inconvenient kidney stone, a mass medieval grave site (trust me), a nosy ham radio geek and all manner of scandalous royal holiday snaps and our pudding is surely way over-egged. Or so youd think.
Because our lads kick it old school, all shovels and tunnels and elbow grease no stateless Eurotrash with laptops, thanks theres plenty of time for rumination and explication. And because the script mercifully lays off the Tarantino-esque pop-cult logorrhoea, jargon-heavy LS&2SB back-and-forth, and the gory nihilism of the (ahem) criminally-underrated Gangster No.1, we actually get to the midpoint, and the titular heist, at a surprisingly easygoing pace.
But with act three comes a whiplash-inducing tonal shift, and what has been a bit of a lark turns dark, fraught and exceedingly violent. Crime does, of course, still pay but the film throws up some nasty collection issues. Happily, at about the same time as Stathams plucky amateurs realise, to their horror, how far above their weight class theyve been punching, we complete our emotional investment in their fortunes. (Not, lord knows, because their hearts are particularly golden, but because, in Oceans 1x fashion, theyre kind of cuddly and, relatively, honourable, and generally the least despicable rogues in the gallery.) And because there isnt much here to distract the higher brain functions little cause, lots of very loud effect its actually possible to maintain a reasonably firm grip on all the rapidly-fraying plot threads.
Until Guy Ritchie can claw back the cred he squandered with Swept Away and the all-but-unseen Revolver, this will have to do. And, guvnor, it does bloody nicely indeed. (Maple)