Starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def and Donald Sutherland

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Review by Mark Walters


 I just watched an advance print of THE ITALIAN JOB, which is scheduled for a May 30th release.  We were told by a studio representative, as well as a disclaimer before the film, that this print was unfinished and the music and editing may be different for the final version.  Edward Norton has been very vocal about the fact that his appearance in this movie was a result of contractual obligations, and not by choice.  Plus director F. Gary Gray's last movie was the lackluster A MAN APART with Vin Diesel.  Needless to say I wasn't expecting much.  To my surprise the film was quite good.

The story opens with an eclectic team of thieves pulling off a big gold heist in Venice.  Donald Sutherland plays John Bridger, the team leader, who wants more than anything to be a better father to his straight-laced daughter.  Charlize Theron appears only briefly in the opening as John's daughter Stella, who wishes more than anything that her father was out of the heist business.  Mark Wahlberg plays Charlie, John's right hand man, and the guy who makes all the plans the gang carries out.  Edward Norton is Steve, a frustrated member of the group who appears about as under-appreciated as he obviously feels.  Seth Green is Lyle, a computer genius who claims to be the real creator of Napster, though his roommate got all the credit.  Jason Statham is Handsome Rob, a ladies man that is as good at flirting as he is at getting wheels.  Mos Def plays Left Ear, an explosives expert who lost hearing in his right ear as a result of an early experiment with what would become his lifelong obsession.  After their successful job in Venice, the gang is shocked to discover that Steve has sold them out, and plans to take all the gold for himself.  In the process he shoots John, and leaves the rest of the gang in what should be a watery grave.  One year later the gang is still around, and Charlie has become the official leader.  He drops in on Stella, who is now a professional safe cracker working with police.  Charlie asks her to help get even with Steve by stealing back all of the gold.  This of course in no easy task since Steve now lives in a guarded mansion, and has enough money to do just about anything.  One thing he obviously lacks is savvy, since he relies on a Ukrainian pawn shop owner to pay him large amounts of money for his gold bars.  Despite all his riches Steve is still just a thug.  The team assembles together plotting out an elaborate heist to get back what was once theirs, though it's not really about the money anymore.  Charlie asks Stella to get close to Steve, since she's the only stranger in the group.  Tensions are high though, and getting even may be harder than any of them thought.  Either way, it sure is fun to watch.

 The movie delivers what you might expect, but in style.  The characters are fun, and the scenarios they get into will keep you interested.  The script is pretty solid, and the pacing just right.  I can understand why Norton wasn't pleased with the film.  His role is almost an insult to the man's acting ability.  I wouldn't say he's miscast, but it does seem odd watching someone with his talent play a weasely antagonist that is anything but clever.  It's pretty obvious his heart wasn't in his performance.  Thankfully the rest of the cast is great.  Wahlberg is very likable as Charlie, and despite being the leader of the group never seems full of himself.  Theron is incredibly sexy and smart as Stella.  She and Wahlberg work well off each other, even if the sparks never really fly between them.  Seth Green is outrageously funny as Lyle, and steals every scene he's in.  His narration of a particular observed moment is priceless.  Jason Statham is fine, despite spending most of his time doing little more than grimacing.  Mos Def does well too, and fits right in with the gang.  Sutherland's performance while brief is endearing, and it's truly sad to see him go after what was to be his "one last" job.  Most of the film focuses on the planning of how the revenge heist will be carried out.  One key element of the job involves the use of Mini Cooper cars, and it's fun watching these vehicles do their thing.  This was actually carried over from the original film all of this is based on, also called THE ITALIAN JOB.  One scene in the new movie even shows Edward Norton turning on the TV and watching a scene from the original film featuring Michael Caine!  The new film's chase scenes are great, and directed beautifully.  F. Gary Gray has totally redeemed himself to me, and has done a fine job putting together a movie that could've easily been a mess.  Norton's comments aside, THE ITALIAN JOB is very entertaining, and I hope audiences will give it a chance.  I did find it fascinating that the temporary music track borrowed heavily from GET CARTER and RUN LOLA RUN.  It seems like every year or so we get a big heist film.  I can honestly say this feels to me like one of the better ones, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again once it's truly finished.

On a side note, do yourself a favor and do NOT watch the trailer.  It unfortunately gives away far too many key moments of the film... just so you know.

Images copyright PARAMOUNT PICTURES 2003 score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give THE ITALIAN JOB an 8.5.

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All content 2004