Crime pays in a capable British caper directed with pace, panache and an eye for period


Last updated at 09:11 04 March 2008

Anyone in search of cheerfully mindless entertainment this weekend could do much worse than The Bank Job, a British caper movie directed with pace, panache and an eye for period by Roger Donaldson, the Antipodean director who brought us such solidly competent fare as Thirteen Days and The World's Fastest Indian.

It's based - very loosely - on an event in September 1971, when thieves tunnelled into the vault of Lloyds Bank in Baker Street and looted safe deposit boxes of millions of pounds' worth of cash and jewellery.

Scroll down for more...


The gang's all here: Statham (left) and friends case the joint in The Bank Job (15)

The villains were never brought to justice, and the robbery disappeared from newspapers after a few days as a result of a government D notice, gagging the Press.

The film hypothesises that within those stolen boxes were documents implicating the Metropolitan Police in corruption, and a prominent female member of the Royal Family in three-in-a-bed sex romps.

In the leading role, as a dodgy used-car dealer who puts together the raid and rapidly finds himself out of his depth, Jason Statham is surprisingly charismatic.

Statham first came to prominence as a hard man in Guy Ritchie movies - in trash such as The Transporter - and has moved on to become a cut-price action hero, the East End's answer to Jean-Claude van Damme.

No longer having to perform preposterous action sequences or pose as a mid-Atlantic sex symbol, Statham has suddenly become a likeable screen presence.

Donaldson is the first director to spot that his shortness of stature makes him a believable underdog: vulnerable and manipulated, but defiantly persevering.

Scroll down for more...

I wouldn't say this is a great performance, but after the morale-sapping disaster that was Guy Ritchie's Revolver, full marks to Statham for turning in a good one.

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are justifiably celebrated for their achievements in TV, which include the classics Porridge, The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

Their movie career has been much more chequered, ranging from the occasionally sublime (Alan Parker's The Commitments) to the mostly abysmal (Honest, Excess Baggage, Water).

They're always at their happiest creating colourful caricatures, and the most memorable character here is David Suchet's sleazy, brilliantined porn baron, Lew Vogel.

They are never at their best writing women, however, and most of the females in The Bank Job are misogynistic stereotypes.

Keeley Hawes is wasted as Jason Statham's worried wife,

and as his moll, a fashion model with friends in high places, Saffron Burrows is lumbered with the movie's least convincing role.

There's nothing especially original about this underdogsagainstthe-establishment flick - the characters are thin, the dialogue is more functional than inspired - and there's nothing original about the heist.

As a caper movie, this is certainly not in the same class as, say, The Lavender Hill Mob. But I was never bored, and the complicated plot races along at a suitably frenetic pace to an agreeable conclusion.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now