When the (supposedly) true story that this film is based upon was finally revealed, it isn’t hard to imagine waiting over 30 years to make it (hint: people die).
In 1971 London, Terry Leather (Jason Statham) is a small-time con looking for his big break so he and his family can quietly retire away from the city. When an old flame presents an almost foolproof plan for hitting a private bank’s safety deposit vault, Terry puts together a few acquaintances to make it happen. What Terry doesn’t know is that the British government is responsible for leaking the opportunity to ensure the contents of one particular vault conveniently disappears. What the British government doesn’t know is that are far more damning things inside the vault than the contents of that one box.
The Bank Job is a throwback to old-fashion caper flicks in the same spirit as Inside Man. The key difference is that it doesn’t pull any politically-correct punches, including during some truly gruesome torture scenes. This isn’t a typical over-the-top Jason Statham flick so much as it is a slow-burn caper that starts simple and grow infinitely more complicated as clues are revealed. What’s the most interesting part of the overall story is that, of the characters directly involved, the thieves themselves were the most innocent.
Statham leads a cast of character actors through a nail-biting heist that has “about to go wrong” written all over it, but that’s only half the film. No one is exactly as they seem, either, so over the almost two-hour running time, it’s easy to start to feel something for these petty thieves in way over their heads. It’s also easy to hate the masters of their fate, and when things start going even wrong for them, the layers of misfortune that follow are indeed deserved. Remember: is was reported that no one was ever arrested for the theft and no arrests were ever made.
The Bank Job is about character, consequences, and Murphy’s Law in full effect for everyone involved. There aren’t any good guys here, just different levels of bad guys, and some get far worse or far less than they deserved for their individual parts. The gruesome parts of the film sneak up on you in the second half, so don’t become too comfortable with the charm of the heist when the consequences remain at large. Hollywood doesn’t invest in these kinds of stories anymore, and when they do, they’re usually star-powered vehicles positioned between high-budget blockbusters that get lost in the shuffle for opening weekend profits. And for a clever picture like this, that’s a shame.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)