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By Stina Chyn | March 10, 2008

Since making his debut in “Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels”, Jason Statham has kept a very productive schedule with approximately a project out a year. Eight years and twenty-one films, including “Snatch”, “The Transporter” (Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen, 2002), and “Crank” (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, 2006). After the questionable “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”, Statham returns to top form in Roger Donaldson’s thrilling heist “The Bank Job.”

Modified to protect the identities of the guilty, this real-life-inspired film packs a hearty punch as it details the transpiring of a delicate situation that prompts MI5 to organize unofficially a bank vault plundering. It’s 1971 in London; car salesman Terry Leather (Statham) and his friends Dave (Daniel Mays) and Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore) are persuaded by Terry’s old flame, Martine Love (a Charlotte Rampling-esque Saffron Burrows), to break into Lloyd’s Bank Limited on 185 Baker Street. Terry also enlists con artist “Major” Guy Singer (James Faulkner) and demolition expert Bambas (Alki David) in this venture. Entering the bank (via lots of drilling and tunneling) is easy enough; collecting the contents inside the deposit boxes and making an equally smooth exit prove to be more challenging endeavors—all thanks to a ham radio operator who gets Scotland Yard pulled into the picture.

Backstabbing and withholding of information is a common occurrence in heist films; the characters don’t always know they’re about to be double-crossed. Terry knows that Martine isn’t being totally honest with him and the others. Aside from the police presence and the fact that Martine is hiding something, the stolen goods themselves pose a problem. Jewels and currency are just half of the loot. Blackmail-grade photographs and financial records are also among the harvest. Strip club owner and porn producer Lew Vogel (David Suchet), for instance, poses a formidable obstacle to the thieves’ post-job happy hour. Much of the suspense and action in the final fifteen minutes hinges on resolving these issues.

Seasoned directors can grow self-indulgent, inaccessible, or remain solid as gold. Donaldson shines for the most part with “The Bank Job.” There are two less radiant portions in the film. The first occurs at the beginning during the introduction of a few key characters. After Terry and Martine make their appearances on screen, the subtitle “3 weeks earlier” signals a flashback and agents Tim Everett (Richard Lintern) and Gale Benson (Hattie Morahan) enter the narrative. The viewer also learns the reason Martine convinces Terry to utilize his non-law-abiding talents (one last time). The flashback sequence doesn’t run very long, but without a definitive back-to-the-present cue, brief confusion ensues, preventing the viewer from fully concentrating on the conversation Martine and Terry have over drinks. Another snag concerns agent Benson’s undercover assignment. If MI5 knows that certain scandalous photographs are in safety deposit box 118 at Lloyd’s Bank, was Benson’s subplot just to keep tabs on her targets?

These two blemishes notwithstanding, “The Bank Job” secures the viewer’s attention pretty quickly and does not relinquish that hold for a second. Furthermore, the manner in which the heist is carried out and the aftermath of its completion are both exciting and sobering.

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