The Italian Job [DVD]
Director : F. Gary Gray
Screenplay : Donna Powers & Wayne Powers (based on the film written by Troy Kennedy-Martin)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Mark Wahlberg (Charlie Croker), Charlize Theron (Stella Bridger), Donald Sutherland (John Bridger), Jason Statham (Handsome Rob), Seth Green (Lyle), Mos Def (Left Ear), Edward Norton (Steve)
The best heist movies are never about the heist itself, but rather about the motivations behind it. The usual motivation is the “last big score,” an aging criminal’s final, brazen attempt to pull off one final job before retiring or “going legit.” Sometimes, the criminal has been brought out of retirement—having gone legit years ago, he is brought back into the fray because he owes someone a favor or because he has fallen on hard times and wants to reclaim his former glory.
Much of this is at work in F. Gary Gray’s remake of The Italian Job (the original was a late-’60s British caper-comedy starring Michael Caine and Noël Coward), but with the inclusion of one significant motivator: revenge. The movie features not one, but two major heists, the first for money and glory, the second for vengeance. Both are rife with everything that makes great movie heists exciting: exacting planning, intricate teamwork, and a combination of the latest high-tech gadgets and good ol’ fashioned criminal know-how.
Mark Wahlberg stars are Charlie Croker, an up-and-coming criminal mastermind who is inheriting the reigns from his mentor/father figure, John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). The “Italian job” of the title refers to Charlie’s plot to steal a safe holding $35 million worth of gold bars in Venice by literally blowing the floor out from underneath it. He needs John to work with him “one last time” because John is a master safecracker, one of those who can figure out a combination just by touch. Unfortunately, the job goes bad when one of Charlie’s gang, the smarmy and smug Steve (Edward Norton), double-crosses them, steals the gold, kills John, and leaves the rest for dead (in one of those borderline ludicrous movie moments in which he assumes, against all logic, that everyone is dead without any real evidence).
Cut ahead a year later, and Charlie has finally located Steve, who is living comfortably in Los Angeles. Determined to avenge John’s death, Charlie does the one thing he knows will hurt Steve the most: steal the gold back. To do this, he reassembles his old team, which includes the suave Handsome Rob (Jason Statham, star of The Transporter), the computer geek Lyle (Seth Green), who insists that he be called “Napster” because he claims to have invented it, and the demolitions expert Left Ear (Mos Def), so named because that’s the only ear he can hear with. Of course, someone has to fill in John’s empty place, so Charlie recruits John’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), who is also an expert safecracker, but one who works legit for a security company.
The centerpiece of The Italian Job, and virtually the only thing it has in common with the 1969 original, is a bravura chase sequence involving three Mini Coopers. In the original, this chase sequence took place in Turin; here, it takes place on and below the streets of Los Angeles as Charlie and his crew attempt to steal an armored truck that is transporting Steve’s stolen gold. This involves nothing less than Lyle hacking into the L.A. traffic control database and creating massive traffic jams to direct the armored truck where he wants and allow the others to drive into the L.A. subway system in their Mini Coopers. It’s an exhilarating piece of action moviemaking, all done for real on location without any computer-generated additions.
Yet, what drives The Italian Job is the emotional core, the determination of a surrogate son and a blood daughter to avenge the senseless murder of their father. Stealing money for the sake of stealing money is dull; stealing it for the sake of vengeance has an added kick to it and also allows us to more fully identify with the criminal protagonists. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that all of them are played by actors who were clearly cast for their looks (with the possible exception of Seth Green, who at this point has perfected the art of the smart-ass computer-hacker type). Unfortunately, Mark Wahlberg, attractive as he is, makes for a bland central character; he never convinces us of the fire behind his plans, and the movie doesn’t register as fully as it might have with a more emotional actor in the role. The other actors, thankfully, pick up the slack around him, particularly Charlize Theron, who does convey the pain of an often-forgotten daughter avenging a father she barely even knew.
The Italian Job doesn’t do anything particularly new, but the heist genre has been so well-worked at this point that novelty is beyond expectation. Instead, it does exactly what we expect it to do very well, charming us with style, wit, and the simple boldness of real-life car chases.
|The Italian Job Special Collector’s Edition DVD|
|Audio|| English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround |
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
English Dolby 2.0 Surround
|Supplements|| “Pedal to the Metal: The Making of The Italian Job” featurette|
“Putting the Words on the Page for The Italian Job” featurette
“The Italian Job: Driving School” featurette
“The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job” featurette
“High Octane: Stunts From The Italian Job” featurette
Original theatrical trailer
|Distributor||Paramount Home Video|
|Release Date||October 7, 2003|
|Avoid the optional pan-and-scan release and get the widescreen version of The Italian Job if you want to fully appreciate all the action sequences that are the movie’s core. This disc boasts an excellent anamorphic transfer, with crisp detail and good, strong colors throughout.|
|The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is also impressive, with solid use of the surround speakers for imaging and directionality (just check out the roar of the boats in the canal chase at the beginning) and a solid low end.|
|The bulk of the supplements on this Special Collector’s Edition disc are five featurettes. “Pedal to the Metal: The Making of The Italian Job” is the longest at 18 minutes; featuring interviews with director F. Gary Gray, producer Charles Wood, executive producer James Dyer, and actors Mark Wahlberg, Seth Green, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, and a very bushy Donald Sutherland, among others, it is a decent look at the movie’s production. The other four featurettes run 6 to 8 minutes in length: “Putting the Words on the Page for The Italian Job” is primarily an interview with screenwriters Donna and Wayne Powers about how they purposefully avoided “remaking” the original film; “The Italian Job: Driving School” documents how the actors went through driving training to learn how to execute reverse 180-degree turns and other stunts; “The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job” is pretty self-explanatory; and “High Octane: Stunts From The Italian Job” goes behind the scenes of three major stunt sequences in the film. Also included are six deleted scenes presented in video-quality nonanamorphic widescreen and the original theatrical trailer.|
©2003 James Kendrick