I recently screened “The Italian Job” a remake of a 1969 film by the same name. The updated version was directed by F. Gary Gray. It features a star filled line-up that includes Ed Norton, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. The supporting cast is rounded out by some excellent actors including the rapper and acclaimed actor Mos Def, along with Seth Green, Jason Statham and Donald Sutherland. Except for Mr. Sutherland as the wily veteran thief, they all bring a light comedic touch to their roles as burglary specialists. From the demolition expert to the computer hacker they’ve got all the bases covered.
“The Italian Job” is a fun caper film, similar to the recent “Ocean’s Eleven” remake. Mr. Wahlberg’s Charlie Croker has put together an all-star line-up for what appears to be an impossible job. After an incredible heist and chase sequence one of the crew pulls a nasty double-cross. Now the gang is highly motivated. With the economies of two birds for one stone they decide to steal back their loot and reap revenge, all in one fell swoop.
Most of the advance press for this film has not been kind. Apparently Ed Norton made no secret of his dislike of the concept. He made this film under extreme duress, threatening to file suit rather than go forward with the production. Word is that only after the studio had done some serious saber rattling did he fall in line.
It’s certainly not the type of nuanced performance we normally expect from Mr. Norton, like in the recent Spike Lee film “The 25th hour.” Here he plays an amoral thief and even worse, a greedy one. Yet it’s fairly delicious to see him play such unrepentant creep. In fact it’s damn fun.
While it begins as a rather serious suspense film filled with cliché lessons about parental love I’m happy to report it strikes another, better note when it aims for tongue-in-cheek humor paired with mindless action. Seth Green in particular is wonderful as the grudge carrying cyber genius, adamant that he actually invented Napster. This joke builds through most of the movie and surprisingly it keeps getting funnier.
Also perhaps in response to some of the recent anti-Hollywood fervor they take some very P.C., and very funny, pokes at cigarettes and S.U.V.’s. Admittedly there are a few clunkers, such as the moment of serious doubt and reflection by Charlize Theron, that brings the fast paced flick to a screeching halt. Still it’s not enough to dampen a good time.
The final sequence of “The Italian Job” takes a while to unfold but it’s superb. While at times it feels like an extended commercial for the newly redesigned Mini Cooper I’d be lying if I said it really bothered me. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 2003 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 5/28/03
The Italian Job
USA - 2003