If The Bank Job were equal to the sum of its parts, it would be spectacular. Based on a true story about a 1971 London heist where no arrest was ever made, no loot was ever recovered, and the government placed a gag order on the press to keep the details from getting out, the film claims to finally tell the whole sordid truth.
The particulars involve the Trinidad-born Black Power militant Michael X, English sex-trade gangsters, MI6 spies, the royal family, and blue-collar criminals who are recruited to rob a bank.
It sounds like Jim Thompson meets Ian Fleming meets The Long Good Friday. If only.
Unfortunately, The Bank Job is much too prosaic. When it could be getting period political, or at least period precise, it settles for the humdrum language of heist movies. The protagonist, Terry Leather (Jason Statham, in a role that won't please his action fans — he only gets in one fight), is the leader of the robber gang, but there are easily 10 characters more interesting.
The screenplay, by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (Across the Universe, The Commitments), also fails in dialogue. This is the most British-sounding movie I can remember, fussy with über-English-sounding clichés such as spot of bother, cheeky, bloody, shipshape, bollocks, and cloud cuckoo-land.
Director Roger Donaldson keeps things mildly interesting, but he can't match the past good work he's done with the thrillers White Sands or No Way Out.
We're told at the end of the film that the government files on the case will be unsealed in 2054. You might as well wait 'til then.
Opening Friday, March 8th, at multiple locations