The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Italian Job (2003)

In an age of sequels, prequels and remakes, all I'm usually looking for is a new tweak. It doesn't have to be a major thing, just a difference. So how about a remake of the 1969 cult favorite The Italian Job? First, Americanize it of sorts, put together a cool cast, stylish heist, and ta-da! We've got 2003's The Italian Job!

Having pulled off an intricate robbery in Venice, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and their heist team manage to escape with $35 million of gold bars. But as they escape in the Alps, one of the team, Steve (Edward Norton), turns on the group and steals the gold for himself. Bridger is shot and killed and the rest are left for dead as Steve escapes with all the gold. A year later, Charlie has managed to track down Steve who's gone into hiding. He's got the heist team back together, and they're looking for some revenge. What better way than to steal their gold back? They'll need help though so Charlie recruits Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron), John's daughter and an expert safecracker.

Basically this is a remake in name only. Oh, and a team of crooks does in fact steal things while using Mini-Coopers as part of the getaway. Other than that though, it's a whole other heist movie that stands on its own. Director F. Gary Gray has modernized the story, jumping the story from a European setting to Philadelphia and Los Angeles instead. There is something simple, straightforward and appealing about this remake. Low-key isn't the right description, but 'Italian' doesn't try to rewrite or reinvent the genre. It knows where it wants to get, and it knows how it's going to get there. Is it so wrong that it is just a solid, entertaining and fun heist movie? I say that like 'Just' is a bad thing.

That comfort level in knowing where the movie hopes to end up is most evident in the actual heists. The opening robbery of a heavily guarded home in Venice is an ideal scene-setter, capping off with a high-speed boat chase through the Venetian canals. It gets the movie going at a breakneck speed immediately, and Sutherland's appearance is a very cool addition. The finale heist is again, pretty straightforward, but just as exciting. Norton's Steve is onto Charlie's plan and tries to sneak the gold out, but with three Mini-Coopers, explosives, Russian gangsters, armored truck guards, heavily armed motorcycle guards and a patrolling helicopter 'Italian' has some tricks up its sleeve right until the end.

More than the heist aspect of 'Italian,' the thing that most appeals to me about this movie is the casting. Both the good guys, the bad guys and the yet to be determined to the end, it is a likable, appealing cast. Wahlberg especially is one of my favorites, an actor who's carved a niche out for himself, playing a variation on the tough guy everyman. If it sounds like a dig or something negative, I don't mean it, but he's incredibly likable on-screen, especially as the confident high-class thief leading his team. It's also good to see Theron do just a fun movie, not a big, message movie. She fits in well with the crew, and it's the type of part that's right in her wheelhouse. And can you go wrong with a quick appearance by Donald Sutherland? Too bad it's not a larger part. Charlie's team also includes Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), the driver and all-around ladies man, Lyle (Seth Green), the tech guy and hacker who claims Napster was his own creation, Left Ear (rapper Mos Def), specialist in explosives, and Wrench (Franky G), the mechanic who rigs the cars for added weight.

Oh, yeah, Edward Norton is awesome whether he plays a good guy or bad guy. Playing the paranoid thief with $ for eyes, he doesn't disappoint. Also look for Olek Krupa as Mashkov, a Ukrainian gangster who has an interest in how the robbery develops, but no spoilers here. Not a ton to analyze about this ready-made, entertaining heist rehash, but I think that's the point. It's got action, laughs and a good dynamic among the team, especially Green impersonating Statham. Watch it HERE, it's dead-on. Just sit back and enjoy Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Jason Statham try to pull off a crazy heist. Fun from the start.

The Italian Job <---trailer (2003): ***/****

No comments:

Post a Comment