The Bank Job has nothing to do with the 2003 version of The Italian Job, even though both movies feature Jason Statham.

The balding, jut-jawed, muscular, gravel-voiced Englishman has starred in a string of regularly profitable low-budget Hollywood action pictures (War, Crank, The One, the original and sequel to The Transporter). These movies were all crap, but he’s not a crappy actor. He’s not Daniel Day-Lewis either, to be sure, but he’s a skilled martial-arts performer, and he can show just enough vulnerability through his granite-like façade to keep himself interesting. His latest film is his best vehicle since the 2001 thriller Snatch. It’s based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street robbery, in which the perpetrators tunneled into a vault at a Lloyd’s Bank branch in London’s Marylebone district, stole cash and jewelry from the safe deposit boxes (reports vary as to exactly how much), and got away clean. The crime struck a chord in Britain because after a few days of reportage, the country’s press was officially silenced by the government, citing national security issues. This unusual measure left the public to speculate on what those issues might have been.


The movie fills in the blanks and changes quite a few names. Michael X (Peter De Jersey), a drug-dealing pimp passing himself off as a black-power activist, has taken sex pictures of Princess Margaret in a three-way, stashing them in the bank and using them as leverage so he can continue his illegal activities. An MI-5 flunky who’s out to impress his bosses (Richard Lintern) volunteers to retrieve the photos through unofficial means, namely his girlfriend Martine (Saffron Burrows) and her ex Terry (Statham), a garage owner and small-time criminal. She tells Terry how he and his mates can rob the bank, but keeps him in the dark about the pictures. When he finds out about them, it places his crew’s lives in danger from both their fellow outlaws and crooked Scotland Yard cops.

This is a coldly efficient thriller, and the only extraneous elements are some gratuitous female nudity and an even more gratuitous female subplot in which Terry’s wife (Keeley Hawes) becomes suspicious of Martine. Director Roger Donaldson finds his best form as he and the veteran screenwriting team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais ruthlessly streamline an intricately plotted film that includes a porn mogul (David Suchet), a lord with a taste for leather (Rupert Frazer), and an MI-5 agent (Hattie Morahan) infiltrating Michael X’s inner circle. Complicated action sequences – like the one midway through in which the manager and the cops unexpectedly show up at the bank while the crew is still in the vault – are brought off smoothly, and Terry’s attempts to outmaneuver everyone who wants him dead are DELETEed with bruising intelligence. There’s no beauty or joy in The Bank Job, and little in the way of humor, but for a caper flick that keeps a solid grip on your attention for 118 minutes, it works just fine.

The Bank Job
Starring Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows. Directed by Roger Donaldson. Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Rated R.