"Italian Job" ... light, bright and taut.
RIGHT FROM the first frame with the opening credits, exciting background score, warm tones in the visuals to the action packed climax, this Paramount venture is definitely worth watching. It's light, bright and taut. And brings into focus that even if the script had been average (which it isn't), the finesse and élan with which this film has been made you have to acknowledge that Hollywood has a sharp edge over most products from across the world. In terms of entertainment value, technical superiority and of course, huge budgets. Add to that the cool, savvy way of presenting something that is probably as hackneyed as anything! Robberies! Nothing new about this. But you just have to see the way it has been filmed. A remake of a 1969 film with the same title and with a young handsome Michael Caine in the lead, this movie though adopting old-fashioned ideas of a heist, incorporates many of the modern gadgetry to get things done. What really sets it apart from many of the innumerable heists in the history of cinema, is its successful sense of uncertainty that persists right through.
Enhanced of course by the superbly choreographed chase sequences by speedboats in the water locked city of Venice in the beginning and the traffic choked freeways of Los Angeles in the climax. Placed in the middle of all this are some really funny, charming guys and a beautiful girl (why are they all so gorgeous? Does that mean the not-so-good-looking ones aren't capable?), with nicknames that make you smile, millions and millions of dollars in gold all to be taken, hi-tech safes and hacking, slimy villains and European style minis that can purr up and down staircases, across railway lines, tunnels and what have you. And the best part is that although it is not meant to be a comedy, director F Gary Gray realises that he is working in a genre where viewers expect to be entertained. And he provides loads of it. Working on a rather shallow plot of just two robberies-one in the beginning when a team led by John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) steals gold bars worth millions from a safe in an Italian palazzo, only to have it ambushed by one of the team members, and the other when it is traced back to L.A. and how it is stolen back. One needs to be conscious of the fact that the police are nowhere near all this except in an apologetic fashion and that someone other than the thieves is entitled to the gold. That is just beside the point.
So here goes. John is the leader of a heist team operating in Venice. The gang includes thieves such as Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) computer genius and hacker Lyle (Seth Green) Steve (Edward Norton) demolition expert Left Ear (Mos Def) and Handsome Rob (Jason Statham). After the superb theft double-crossed as they are escaping with the loot near the snowy Austrian border John dies and Charlie, his inheritor, will take revenge. The turncoat is traced back to the U.S., specifically L.A. The team reassembles and along with them is John' s daughter, Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron) who is in it not so much for the loot in as for the revenge part.
Director Gary Gray starts the fun with the introduction of the characters and their backgrounds. For instance, computer nerd, Lyle insists that he is the one who invented Napster. His roommate stole his programme while Lyle was napping! And then proceeds to put all of them through some of the most well-choreographed action scenes. Which are very invigorating to say the least. Apart from the ones on the canals of Venice, the one where they show a van plummeting down icy waters and the way the survivors try to escape the bullets whizzing past them are but teasers to the main sequences. The final one that leads to a major traffic jam with a helicopter chasing three minis along with some armoured trucks is makes you feel that great thieves are like master craftsmen. Worth seeing how they plan, execute and improvise.
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