Jason Statham in The Bank Job (2008)


(director: Roger Donaldson; screenwriters: Dick Clement/Ian La Frenais; cinematographer: Mick Coulter; editor: John Gilbert; music: J. Peter Robinson; cast: Jason Statham (Terry Leather), Saffron Burrows (Martine Love), Richard Lintern (Tim Everett), Keeley Hawes (Wendy Leather), Stephen Campbell Moore (Kevin Swain), Daniel Mays (Dave Shilling), Peter Bowles (Miles Urquart), Peter De Jersey (Michael X), David Suchet (Lew Vogel), Michael Jibson (Eddie Burton), Georgia Taylor (Ingrid Burton), Hattie Morahan (Gale Benson), James Faulkner (Guy Singer), Alki David (Bambas), Gerard Horan (Roy Given), Colin Salmon (Hakim Jamal), Sharon Maughan (Sonia Bern), Les Kenny-Green (Pinky), James Kenna (Perky), Angus Wright (Ham radio operator); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Steven Chasman/Charles Roven; Lionsgate; 2008)

“One of the more loopy caper flicks.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Veteran Aussie-born, New Zealand-based director Roger Donaldson (“The Recruit”/”The World’s Fastest Indian”/”White Sands”) slickly helms this stranger-than-fiction true story about a heist based on the baffling 1971 London bank robbery. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (Brit TV writers) turn in a fast paced and sharply written fanciful screenplay, splashing all sorts of incredulous scenarios across the screen in the hopes that they might come close to getting to the truth and if not at least they had some fun in their speculations. Whether this film version is true or not can’t be ascertained because we are told by the filmmakers there’s a D Notice issued (a form of media self-censorship agreed upon by both representatives of the press and the government). Nevertheless, it’s a diverting comical caper flick that’s efficiently presented in a workmanlike way and “guy” star Jason Statham, a real no-nonsense man’s man, gives a pleasingly physical performance as the dodgy good-guy bank robber leader shaking his fist at the underworld, the law and the establishment.

Terry Leather (Jason Statham) is a former small-time hood now a loyal family man who is trying to go legit in his struggling London used car dealership, but still proves he has a bit of larceny in his heart when his ex-flame Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), the ex-model, suddenly appears and offers him a proposition to rob the Baker Street branch of Lloyd’s Bank and he accepts when the femme fatale tells him her big shot security company boyfriend tells her in confidence that there’s oodles of cash stashed there and the alarms have been shut down for a week in the bank to correct a technical problem. The plan is to rent the vacated women’s leather handbag store two doors away from the bank and drill a tunnel into the safe deposit box.

The amateur gang Terry gathers have no experience robbing banks: Dave (Daniel Mays) is an aspiring actor in porn films, Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore) is a shifty photographer, Guy (James Faulkner) is a military-styled con artist and Bambas (Alki David) is the only experienced hand at drilling tunnels. For a partial split, the gang hires the good-natured Eddie (Michael Jimson), Terry’s auto mechanic, to be the lookout posted on the roof across the street from the bank and to communicate with them with a walkie-talkie.

Martine’s security boyfriend is an ambitious snarky MI5 agent, Tim Everett (Richard Lintern), who orchestrates the heist for the benefit of his top-level spook friends so they can retrieve the sex photos of the wayward Princess Margaret kept in the safe deposit box at the bank by a Trinidad-born but London-based radical chic black-power leader, pimp and drug dealer named Michael X (Peter de Jersey). The phony Black Panther but real racketeer uses the photos to blackmail the government to avoid prosecutions.

Complications arise when smarmy Soho porno king (David Suchet) and an upscale madame (Sharon Maughan) also have safe deposit boxes of incriminating materials in the burgled vault. One of a ledger book of bribes paid to top-level police and the other of photos of top government officials in various poses while having kinky sex. When a ham radio operator (Angus Wright) accidentally overhears the gang’s frequency while they are in the midst of robbing the safe, the honest precinct cop, Sgt. Given (Gerard Horan), is called in to investigate.

The London tabloids had a field day dubbing this “The Walkie-Talkie Robbery.” Before things get out of hand with leaks that this wasn’t just a simple bank robbery, the government brought out a gag order on all further reporting. But it was reported the robbers scored a haul of £3 million in cash and jewels, and no arrests were made and no money retrieved. Despite the gag order, rumors persisted from the get-go that the heist was connected to a Royal sex scandal that the government was trying to cover-up.

This is one of the more loopy caper flicks.