"Bank Job" a criminal undertaking

Tue Mar 4, 2008 8:24am EST
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The Bank Job

By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - The caper film is such a time-honored and recently neglected genre that it's a shame to report that Roger Donaldson's "The Bank Job" isn't better than it is.

Loosely based on the true-life 1971 robbery of a Lloyds Bank in a ritzy section of London, "Bank" is a slow-paced and often confusingly plotted crime drama that never lives up to the delicious potential of its premise.

The heist's central figure is Terry (Jason Statham, working in a less physically demanding mode than usual), a small-time car dealer and petty criminal who is propositioned to do the job by his old flame Martine (Saffron Burrows). Although she promises a roomful of safe deposit boxes containing untold millions in cash and jewelry, it turns out that her motivations aren't financial. She's being pressured by the British spy forces, who are determined to procure sexually incriminating photos of a member of the royal family that are being used for blackmail purposes by a drug-dealing revolutionary (Peter De Jersey).

Although the robbery is successful, Terry and his makeshift gang suddenly find themselves being pursued not only by the agents of M15 or M16 -- no one is really quite sure which -- but also by a ruthless gangster (David Suchet) looking to retrieve a ledger detailing his payoffs to the local police.

The screenplay by the veteran team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais ("The Commitments") doesn't succeed in conveying the complicated scenario in fully coherent fashion, and Donaldson's tonally wobbly direction is atypically unsure. The proceedings never achieve the necessary tension or pacing, and the half-hearted attempts at comic relief mainly fall flat.

Statham provides his usual compelling physical presence and Suchet delivers a memorably pungent performance, but the supporting players are generally unmemorable, and Burrows is given little to do.

While its 1970s setting is reasonably conveyed despite an obviously low budget, "Bank" fails to rise to the level of the many standard-bearers of the genre dating from the same period.   Continued...

<p>Jason Statham (R) and Saffron Burrows arrive for a screening of the film "The Bank Job" in New York March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>