The Bank Job (2008)

The Bank Job is a heist movie with a couple of double-crosses, some misdirection, and the heist not actually taking up the majority of the running time. This is a film more concerned with what comes after the caper than the theft itself. In some ways, that’s refreshing, but in others, it’s disappointing. The main draw of a heist movie is, after all, the heist itself. Not making that the focus is an odd decision, to say the least.

The plot revolves around a group of people who aren’t professional thieves breaking into a bank in central London. They’re tipped off to the vulnerability of the bank by one Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), who tells them that her boyfriend said that for a week, the bank vault won’t have any alarms. They can dig a tunnel from an empty building close to it, pop up right inside, and then take whatever they can get out of the security deposit boxes. She tells this to an old friend, Terry (Jason Statham), who gathers his crew and cooks up a plan to get in and out without alerting anyone.

However, we find out early on that she was only contacted in order for the British Royal Family to get back some pictures which wouldn’t do a certain member any good if they got released. Those pictures are being held by Michael X (Peter de Jersey), who is using them as blackmail to make sure that he doesn’t get prosecuted for his multiple crimes. A porn director (David Suchet) also gets involved at one point, leading to a few interesting situations, to say the least.

This all builds up to Terry, a representative for the Royal Family, and the pornographer all in a dogfight for the contents of certain safety deposit boxes. Since the film is more concerned with one party attempting to outwit the others in a game of cat and mouse, suffice to say that the bank robbery is successful — mostly. There’s a little bit of tension during the heist, but you never really feel as if the crew won’t succeed in their goal. The real danger shows itself after they emerge from the vault and attempt to begin their new lives as rich “former” thieves.

The Bank Job claims to be based on the true story of a 1971 robbery, and that the names of the guilty have been changed to protect them. That seems like an odd move to me, considering if they’re guilty, surely they don’t need protection from a film. Regardless, I doubt a lot of this movie is grounded in reality, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s based on a real events or not. The date doesn’t even particularly matter; until the film reminded me, I forgot that it was taking place in the 1970s.

There’s a reason that most heist films make the decision to focus on the planning and execution of the caper, leaving the aftermath to the imagination of the viewer or only giving us a quick snippet of information about what happens to all of the characters after they complete their job. It turns out, a well-made heist is more interesting than a generic double-crossing storyline. We like watching these smart characters plan and execute a sleek theft of a countless amount of money. Even if they’re morally in the wrong here — they are stealing from mostly innocent people — we’re okay with it because of the style that comes with it.

However, in this film, we don’t even get the entertaining heist. The caper itself isn’t actually all that interesting, and it’s executed in a manner that you’d expect from Team Rocket. “Drill a tunnel and take what you want” basically sums it up. Any chance of getting caught is added artificially, and there isn’t much skill to the actual theft. After seeing the film, I can understand why they decided to include all of the aftermath plotlines, as watching the characters break into the bank could not sustain a feature film. It couldn’t even keep me entertained for the 30 minutes it takes for them to get their loot.

There is too much going on as well, along with a few characters who seemingly had no purpose except to (1) be there to talk with our main characters, (2) come close to messing things up in the middle of the plot, (3) get captured by the “bad guys” later on in the film, or (4) actually have no purpose. I’m okay with all of the first three if there was an actual reason for many of them to be there in the first place. If they helped at all, it would be okay to see them get captured or stand around after their job is done. But that isn’t what happened, and it left me angry.

The Bank Job also tries to bring MI5 into the mix and claim that it silenced the media from being able to properly report on the crime. That, however, doesn’t fully come across in the film, and we’re left just assuming that’s what it was taking a stab at. There’s not a lot of cruelty at play in this film, nor is anyone in particular targeted with wrongdoing, which is too bad. Had it had the guts to call certain groups out, it might have been worth watching.

While not a bad movie, The Bank Job suffers from not having a very interesting heist, a bunch of unnecessary characters, and nothing to say. It doesn’t focus much on the caper in question, instead using it in order to have a reason for a generic storyline to play out involving double-crosses and groups trying to outsmart one another. Even if you really like heist movies, this one is ultimately a failure.

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