The Bank Job

The Bank Job


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A film which announces 'based on a true story' right under its title in the opening credits is generally bad news, retreading a familiar real-life plotline with not much else to say; but in this case, most viewers won't be familiar with the second story which lies behind the headlines. What you may remember is the media frenzy over a bank robbery which took place in London in 1971, where the gang involved bought a shop and tunnelled from beneath it into the bank vault, ransacking safety deposit boxes. What you may also remember is that this story disappeared very quickly and nobody was ever brought to trial. This film looks at some of the reasons why.

Terry (a bearded Jason Statham) is a small time London crook, a family man with debts to pay who isn't particularly scrupulous about where he gets the money so long as nobody is hurt in the process (the idea of rich people being hurt by losing money doesn't even seem to occur to him). One day an old flame of his, Martine (Saffron Burrows), turns up with a proposition: she has information on when the alarms in a particular bank are going to be out of action, so why don't they rob it?

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Her idea is to steal not cash but the contents of safety deposit boxes, on the basis that many people won't be willing to report them missing. Of course safety deposit boxes are often a hiding place for secret things, but when Terry and his mates follow Martine's advice they find themselves in possession of blackmail material on everyone from corrupt police officers to the royal family, and with all kinds of terrifying people determined to retrieve it.

Fast-paced, energetic, and completely amoral, The Bank Job powers through its story in a way which will satisfy even the shortest viewer attention span. It has an awful lot to pack in, and the layers of conspiracy may sometimes become a bit difficult to distinguish, but strong personable central characters provide an effective point of focus at the centre. It's easy to care about these people, whom we know from the start are way out of their depth and whose ambitions seem only human. Considering their predicament, though, there's surprisingly little tension. The fun in the film comes from their banter, and one can't help but think that watching them take a bus trip to Alton Towers might have been just as enjoyable.

If you're looking for a lightweight, entertaining crime thriller, The Bank Job may well suit you down to a tee, but if you're looking for a political thriller or for a sophisticated look at corruption in the British establishment, you're going to be disappointed. There's a lot of story here but it's all essentially superficial. Lots of fun for a Saturday night, but unlikely to become one of the treasures of your DVD collection.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2008
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The true story of a group of bank robbers who stole more than they'd bargained for.
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Stephen Carty ***1/2

Director: Roger Donaldson

Writer: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais

Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner, Alki David, Michael Jibson, Richard Lintern, David Suchet, Peter De Jersey

Year: 2008

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Glasgow 2008

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