The Bank Job
Directed by Roger Donaldson

Written by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais

Starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows


The Bank Job

In 1971 there was a famous robbery in London where a group of thieves tunneled under a couple of stores to come up in the vault of a Lloyd's bank. It was great news for two days, and then there was no news. None. Lots of rumors about photos of Princess Margaret and other highly placed persons in very compromising positions. And the thieves, and the money, supposedly five million pounds, were never found.

Now there's a film of what might have happened, called "The Bank Job," and it's a fascinating if occasionally confusing piece of work. First of all, the robbers weren't experts at doing such a thing; the leader, Terry (Jason Statham), is a guy who runs a small used-car lot in London. He's brought in by an old girlfriend, a former model and prostitute, Martine (Saffron Burrows). But Martine is beholden to a mysterious man who is apparently in MI5 or MI6 (the internal or external investigation agencies - you can call them spies). He wants to get at one of the safe-deposit boxes in the vault because it has very incriminating photos, apparently of Princess Margaret and some important Cabinet members. He tells her that if he gets the photos she and the gang can get away free with whatever money and jewels they find in the vault; no one will come after them. She provides a city map of the underground passageways from a store nearby to the vault itself. Terry puts a group together that can do the work.

In the meantime there's a subplot involving the man who had the photos taken, a black activist named Michael X (Peter De Jersey), who's been blackmailing the government about those photos by saying that if they want them they have to lay off his criminal activities. Okay? Got that? Good, because there's still another subplot involving a porno producer and brothel owner who's been paying off the cops and noting everything he pays in a book which, of course, is also in the vault.

So everyone converges on the bank vault; the robbers, who do quite a good job of it; placing their lookout on a rooftop across the street, which is fine until his walkie-talkie falls down onto the sidewalk just as the cops arrive. The cops arrive because a ham radio operator has inadvertently listened in to the crooks' radio contacts. The only problem is that no one knows which bank the robbers are working in, . In fact the cops know there are seventeen bank branches in the area and need to check them all out because nothing is visible from the street.

So "The Bank Job" has nice elements of black comedy that go along with the action. In fact all our sympathies are with the robbers; Statham does a very nice job of mixing his blunt strength with a lovely ironic wit that gives the film much more than it would otherwise be. In this season of studio dregs and dogs, "The Bank Job" is a refreshing change.