Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Comedy Rated for Redux: The Italian Job (1969/2003+2011)

Rated for Redux: The Italian Job (1969/2003+2011)


Over the next couple of months, in addition to my regular reviews, I will be looking at movies that are going to be or already have been remade in the next/last few years. I’ll give you my opinion of the film as a whole, and then let you know whether or not it should/needed to be remade as well as my reasoning. If I have any information about the redux film I will also take that into account when determining a film’s “Reduxability”. If you have any suggestions or tips I would love to hear them.

The Italian Job is a movie very typical of the 1960’s and the British. There’s less concern for coherence and more concern for entertaining spectacles. Therefore, as far as fundamentals, The Italian Job is not a good movie. The entire first hour of the movie is spent as set up for the final chase sequence, which, lets face it, is the entire reason for seeing the movie in the first place (besides seeing Michael Caine shine). Characters and their relationships are largely questionable, as is the back story which is poorly explained (the movie essentially starts off in a complicated tangle of character loyalties that take the rest of the movie to sort out). The 60’s were a time of free spirit and this is clearly reflected in the plot, which is full of holes and inconsistent in detail. But all of this largely falls aside once the heist scene starts. The ingenuity, action, wit, and comedy present in the last half hour go far beyond to redeem the problematic beginning, making the movie a minor classic and very worth seeing. You might just have to wait a little while before you see something good.

Synopsis:  Charlie has just been freed from prison. What’s the first thing that he does? Breaks back into prison to talk to his boss about planning another heist, a job he heard about in prison. He gets his group together and then makes his plan. A shipment of gold has just entered Turin from China. To get it, they devise an ingenious plan that rivals the brilliant heist in Ocean’s 11. In this plan, they will cause a city-wide traffic jam and then move the gold out via a group of Mini Coopers. Why Mini Coopers? To drive in small places the cops can’t follow. But, as it turns out, the cops are the least of their worries once the plan is under way…

Acting: Although the remake focuses on a small group of thieves, the original is so chocked-full of extras and minor characters that the only focus is on Charlie and his boss. Charlie, played perfectly by Michael Caine (Batman Begins), does a perfect job balancing the British charm, wit, and awkwardness that the film calls for. The film has a silly tone, which Caine plays well off of with his character’s brilliance and his overall laid back approach to acting, similar to Clooney’s Danny Ocean in Ocean’s 11 (but obviously uniquely British). Legendary actor Noel Coward (Around the World in 80 Days) plays Charlie’s boss, and really is not effective in his role. Neither are the rest of the actors here, but again the acting is not why you are watching this movie, is it? (18/25)….all for Caine

Plot/Script: To put it simply, the script needs to be streamlined. The complications the audience are introduced to are not adequately explained through the dialog. Plus, since you are only really drawn into the film once the action starts, the actual plot and back story are easily forgotten. Its almost as if they added the whole first hour of the film in order to just add length rather than to add importance or build up to the final chase. Indeed, this is a problem that plagued many films in the 60’s anyway (for example; Casino Royale or Ocean’s Eleven), so the focus on having fun rather than anything making sense is more of a byproduct of the times rather than an oversight of the film makers. It is a product of the times. That being said, the final chase scene is brilliant in all aspects. I’m glad they put effort into something worthwhile. The movie also has a perfect ending with one of the most memorable ending lines of all time. (16/25)

Direction: Director Peter Collinson (The Spiral Staircase) directs in a way that is typical of other 60’s movies. Lots of panning zooms, quiet establishing shots, and bright colors. The chase scene is brilliantly directed. The camera motions are fluid, encompassing all of the action. What I often find with early (60’s and early 70’s) action scenes is that the direction is so choppy and details are so inconsistent that it is difficult to figure out what is going on. Although there are some glaring detail goofs, Collinson for the most part is able to present the audience with a clear picture of what is going on during the chase scene. He makes it fun, sophisticated, and goofy all at the same time. (19/25)

Special Effects/Music/X-Factor: The stunt work and overall amazing spectacle in the final heist is quite an accomplishment. Its almost no wonder that the rest of the movie feels so empty because you can clearly see where they spent most of their time. The chase scene in the remake is no comparison. I don’t particularly remember anything good or bad about the music, so I won’t comment about that. Obviously the X-factor is the movie’s complicated but well executed heist; a real fore bearer and inspiration to the action movies that would follow in the next 2 decades. (25/25)

The Verdict:

What Kept Me Watching: The exciting and enjoyable heist makes the rest of the film pallatable, as does Michael Caine’s onscreen charm.

What Killed It: The entire first hour of the film adds pointless (and boring) complications and characters that are forgotten instantly (and thus of no importance) once the chase starts.

Summary: Watch the exhilarating chase sequence, forget the rest.  

Final Rating: (78/100) = C+

What About the Remake?  F. Gary Gray released his remake in 2003, and a sequel is planned for 2011 entitled “The Brazillian Job”. The remake looses all of its British charm and wit. Instead it is an action movie with a plot revolving around revenge for a job gone bad in Italy rather than that job itself. In essence the only things linking the two movies are the Mini Coopers used in the chase scene. The remake seems like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Ocean’s 11 remake, rather than a truly original film or actual remake.

What Could Go Right? The acting, production values, and plot all improved (+30%) over the original drastically, but those were the weak points of the original so improving upon them is not much of an accomplishment.

What Could Go Wrong? First of all the plot is completely different (-20%). Charlie is the only character that remains the same (-10%). The film completely abandons the cheeky wit of the original that made it so unique (-10%), Most aggravating though, the remake only seems to be called “The Italian Job” so that they have an excuse to use Mini Coopers in a chase scene, which by the way is inferior and no where near as impressive an accomplishment as the one in the original (-50%).

Reduxability? 40% = I’m not saying its a bad movie, but it shouldn’t have claimed itself as a remake. The sequel seems like a bad idea as well.

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