The Bank Job
Here’s a pearl beyond price: An action/caper/heist movie without a single car chase, impossible 20-story fall onto a wet napkin, gun battle where 10,000 rounds manage to hit nobody, or chase through a burning warehouse that produces no deadly smoke. Not only that, it’s all true! … well, mostly. It’s based on the Baker Street robbery that happened in London in 1971. It’s not that well-known in the US, but over there it’s sort of like the D.B. Cooper hijacking, the source of endless wild theories, most of them qualifying as urban legends—that is, something that everybody knows is true, but isn’t—about what was really going on. So there are two levels to the movie. Much of it concerns the nuts and bolts of this very lucky band of amateurs, and how they pulled off an amazing tunnel job into the vault of a Lloyd’s Bank and got away with as much as £3,000,000 (about £32,000,000 today) in cash and jewels. This is all a delight to watch, and seems very accurate, as far as I can determine. Then there is the subtext, concerning MI5 (or 6, who can tell?) being behind the whole operation as a means of recovering pornographic photos of … wait for it … Princess Margaret! (Well, you could hardly damage her reputation much more than it’s already been damaged. She was the first in a long line of Saxe-Coburg-Gothas—lately “Windsors”—to figure in the scandal sheets of Fleet Street.) Now, as far as I know, there is little or no evidence of this … but the filmmakers state, afterwards, that 100 owners of safe deposit boxes refused to divulge the contents and thus could not recover anything, even if it was found. This stuff was either drugs, unreported income, blackmail material, or … the possibilities are endless, and easy to believe. So it’s fun to imagine that this part of the story was true, and it adds a lot of great complications, and also provides a means for the bandits (those who survive, anyway) to get away with it, and let’s face it, in a movie like this, don’t we all want them to get away? I sure do. In reality three men served about 8 years each. The pace is fast and it never lets up, with one twist after another, tension mounting delightfully. It does get a little complicated—Lee and I were not quite sure if Major Singer and Bambas were killed by MI5 (or 6) or the Porn King of Soho—but it hardly matters. All the actors are good, including David Suchet (TV’s Hercule Poirot), Saffron Burrows, who may be the world’s most beautiful lesbian, and Jason Statham, who I feel hasn’t hit his stride yet, being bogged down in brainless action pictures like the Transporter series. (Which I admit I haven’t seen, but the descriptions are enough. Hell, the DVD box art is enough.) It has a script co-authored by Ian La Frenais, co-writer of The Commitments and Across the Universe, two of our favorite movies. It’s directed by Roger Donaldson, who did The World’s Fastest Indian. It doesn’t get much better than this.