Review: The Italian Job

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )
Grade: B+

Remakes are coming at movie-goers fast and furious lately, with varying degrees of success. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts got together for a remake of Ocean’s 11 a year and a half ago, which was both financially and critically successful. Adam Sandler remade Mr. Deeds last summer, which, like most of his films, was a money-maker yet a horrible, terrible movie. And just last week, the remake of The In-Laws hit theaters, with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks taking on the lead roles. The Italian Job is just the latest in what is becoming Hollywood’s latest fad, and while it isn’t blessed with the smart dialogue and huge stars of its cousin, Ocean’s 11, it comes close in overall enjoyment and entertainment.

I am not fond of this movie’s title at all. Frankly, it sounds like a variation of oral sex. In addition to that, the titular “Italian job” occurs early in the film, and serves as the cause of all events in the movie to follow. The film opens in where else, but Italy. Venice, more specifically, and we are introduced to John and Charlie. John is an master thief, on his last job; and Charlie is John’s apprentice-type “sidekick,” who is about to take over the reins. John, Charlie, and a group of others including Lyle (computers), Handsome Rob (driving), Left Ear (explosives), and Steve (the negative one), are about to steal 30-some million is gold bars, hence, “the Italian job” is actually a job as in heist. After a successful robbery, Steve turns on his accomplices, steals the gold, and kills John. A few years later, Steve is living the high life. Since all that gold has a distinguishable emblem on it, he must be very careful with off-loading the gold for cash. When Steve’s buyer accidentally slips some information to source used by Charlie, the gang decides they want their gold back, and to do it, they enlist the help of master safecracker Stella, John’s daughter.

I have never seen the original Italian Job, starring Michael Caine, thus I can make no comparison between the original and this remake. I can however make a grand assumption: in terms of sheer quality, the original 1969 version must surpass this new adaptation, as Mark Whalberg edition is no where near attaining the adjective of “classic” as the first one has done. Just because this new version though is not a classic film, does not mean it isn’t a lot of fun. The plot of the movie is simple revenge, and director F. Gary Grey does indeed present the film in this straight forward manor, necessary for a successful popcorn-flick. The Italian Job is full of energy, rarely having prolonged lulls of inaction or extensive scenes filled with background dialogue, as all the background you need is presented in a prologue in the beginning, the titular Italian Job.

Character development in Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Ocean’s 11 was one of the factors that made that movie a success. Yet, that is only thing The Italian Job doesn’t, as misses sorely. A movie of this sort doesn’t require delving deep within the psyches of the characters to be great, yet we must get a feel for certain neuroses and traits that make that character unique to the film and the history of cinema in general. In The Italian Job, we only know the characters on a superficial level.

As in movies as it is in life, dealing with the police is an often delicate matter. The Italian Job choose not to introduce police into the plot, which was mostly a blessing. (The lack of confusion that the police would have brought let us enjoy the thrill of the movie far more superiorly.) Yet not touching on the police made for some plot contrivances. Mostly notably at the end, when each character gets a “where are they now?” clip, I just couldn’t help but thinking that the police would have arrested this group for all the illegal actions they did in getting back their gold. As I discuss the negative aspects of the film, its important to note that the conclusion is rather abrupt. The adrenalin is still pumping from a final chase scene moments ago, as the credits begin to role. These problems I had with the film don’t amount to enough to really damage the pleasant after-feelings I have about the movie.

Like all people, I have certain fantasies of becoming or doing various things, that change from time to time. At one point, it was embarking on a massive hedge maze, later it was playing laser-tag in with a bunch of friends in an empty yet open mall, and then it was becoming a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. Thanks to the Italian Job, my new fantasy involves playing some sort of tag/racing game on mainly empty, yet public roads, in Mini Cooper’s. Only a year ago, I attained my driver’s license, and I am sure a driving fantasy would have emerged sooner or later, but The Italian Job was the catalyst that made it surface now, and it was definitely the basis of the Mini Cooper part of the fantasy.

I like to think that my movie tastes run a bit more highbrow when it comes to simple popcorn-fare films. However, when a director is able to create the perfect balance of good action/stunts and simplicity but without underestimating the brain activity of the audience, then I can enjoy a well made summer popcorn movie like The Italian Job.

Note: When I use the term “popcorn-fare” or “popcorn-flick,” I use it as only an expression to describe a particular genre, as I never eat popcorn when I see movies.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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