Based on some unspeakable, super classified bank robbery that took place in 1971 London, the investigation of which yielded no recovered money nor any arrests, Roger Donaldson
's The Bank Job throttles its engines and tosses in just enough criminal bottom-dwellers to keep the viewers' minds away from the fact that it's still just another heist flick with a cockney accent and a taste for pints.
Names changed (get this) to protect the guilty, the whole mess breaks out when political revolutionary Michael X (Peter De Jersey) snaps some shots of Princess Margaret getting double teamed by two young men on a secluded island. Michael, in fact a pimp and a gangster, places this get-out-of-jail-free card in a safety deposit box at Lloyd's Bank on Baker Street. Adjoining boxes hold more blackmail bait for a brothel Madame, consisting of pictures of government officials getting their spank on, and a ledger of corrupt cops kept by local hood Vogel (David Suchet). Article continues below
A few alleyways away, reformed thief Terry (Jason Statham
) wards off local tough guys looking for dues from his posh car shop. He's up the creek with friend and employee Eddie (Michael Jibson) until his ex-flame Martine (Saffron Burrows
) sets him up to rob Lloyd's with his cronies. As it happens, Martine is shagging Tim (Richard Lintern), an agent for MI-5 who has seduced Martine into getting Terry to hit the bank, all so MI-5 can obtain those pictures of the Princess. There's also a bit about Martine's drug-smuggling charges and Terry's worried wife and two kids.
It's a lot to take in, and more often than not the Michael X subplot, involving an aristocrat's undercover daughter and the entire Vogel mess, feel like window dressing on an otherwise competent heist flick. When the forces converge, the action scenes play like a schematic checklist for Donaldson with the requisite Statham karate-ass-whooping that has been a staple in his post-Snatch career. The robbery itself is an excellently crafted bit of entertainment, minus an egregious moment of pre-conception between Martine and Terry. That they also steal both Vogel and the Madame's bounty becomes the nail in the coffin for much of Terry's crew, played dutifully by James Faulkner, Daniel Mays, Alki David and an exceptional Stephen Campbell Moore
. The nastiest bit concerns the burning of a man's ankles before he gets a bullet in the head.
Donaldson, a capable director though not a very interesting one, seems to think that a few music cues, posters and mod garb and grooming constitute a time period but his dullest knife is his inability to muster any riveting material within this rigid framework. For a story that was so blasphemous that it required a gag order for all government employees, The Bank Job plays out with preposterous conventionality: T. Rex's "Bang A Gong" opens the thing, for chrissakes. Donaldson's film, about a dangerous crime during a tumultuous time period, suffers from a filmmaker utterly uninterested in dangerous filmmaking.