Published May 01, 2003In the summer of sequels and comic book heroes, The Italian Job, directed by F. Gary Gray and also a remake of the 1969 Michael Caine film, is looking to make its mark as a summer blockbuster with an old fashioned theme: a heist. A gang of characters, which includes Left Ear (Mos Def), Handsome Rob (The Transporter's Jason Statham), Lyle (Seth Green), Steve (Ed Norton), a young protégé, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and an old Master, John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), attempt a heist that will set them up for life. Things go wrong however, when Steve double-crosses the crew, steals the loot and kills the old master, setting it up for the surviving members to embark on a mission to get back their gold and also their revenge. To do this though, they need to recruit John Bridger's daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), who flies the straight and narrow. After she's recruited, the action that follows is filled with chase scenes, intrigue and suspense.
The Italian Job's best moments are from its talented cast; the film's quirky characters are given life by strong performances by Stathan, Green and Mos Def, who is surprisingly good as the demolitions expert. Their comedy gives this action film a lighter feel and a quick and entertaining pace, even in the moments when there are no car chases or explosions. Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron each do good a jobs as the leading characters, playing their roles as they were written and not distracting from the talents of their surrounding cast by overacting. One disappointment however, was the performance of Ed Norton; granted, the role of the villain didn't have much wiggle room, but Norton mailed it in every time the audience was tempted with the beginnings of a classic Ed Norton rant, he never delivered.
The heart of any heist movie is the action though, and The Italian Job certainly delivers on that score. There are few films with as many chase scenes as this one, and the excellent filming and suave Mini gives the whole thing a stylish feel. Not to mention, a couple walls get exploded, there is a stand-off between a car and a helicopter, and, of course, millions of dollars in public property gets destroyed. The film does lose some steam with the barrage of advertising for the Mini though; it seems that after every drive some character says, "Nice ride" or "I didn't think we'd get their that quickly." Normally you can tune out corporate advertising, but in this case it was a little too much and it detracts from the movie.
Overall, though, The Italian Job is the perfect summer film to escape the heat in an air-conditioned theatre. It has a decent plot and a fast pace, with a good mix of action, comedy and suspense. You'll be laughing at Green's repeated claims that he invented Napster and two seconds later you'll be struggling to keep up with the cars speeding across the screen. The Italian Job has non-stop action and you won't feel dumber for having watched it. (Paramount)