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Published September 24th, 2003 | by Ed Colley

The Italian Job Review

The Italian Job (2003) is the cinematic equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. It is neither good nor bad, engaging nor boring, sexy nor pedestrian. In short, it’ll be a huge hit and then very quickly forgotten, yet another film starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron that will not be their launch into the A-list, but one that won’t do their careers any harm either.

A lot has been made about how this new version of The Italian Job is a revamp/ reworking/ reimagining of its Michael Caine-starring predecessor. Well, on consideration this new movie pup doesn’t come close to bettering one of Mr Micklethwaite’s best-loved films. But then again, it doesn’t really try very hard to either. In fact, it’s a bit of a mystery as to why F. Gary Gray decided to direct a film and call it The Italian Job, thereby irking many fans of the original, when with a bit of tweaking he could have just come up with just another competent heist movie.

OK, so The Italian Job 2003 has characters called Charlie Croker and John Bridger, follows a plot that involves stealing gold from the mafia, features nefarious types feeling super duper whilst in their Mini Coopers, and involves a big traffic jam. But that is pretty much where any similarity between the two films ends.

For starters, the original Charlie was a charismatic cockney, whereas the new one is played by a man who has about as much charisma as play-dough (as anyone who witnessed Wahlberg being acted off the screen by the chimpanzees in The Planet of the Apes will attest). Additionally, although both Bridger are played by overly flamboyant actors who look like they thoroughly enjoyed their short screen time and (presumably) large cheques, Noel Coward was a very English criminal mastermind in jail, whereas Donald Sutherland plays Donald Sutherland.

As for the plot, again, the two films are pretty different. The Italian Job 2003 begins with a job in Venice (hence the highly, highly tenuous connection to Italy) carried out by Croker’s crew, which comprises of nice villains, Croker and Bridger, plus wheelman Handsome Rob (Jason Statham, playing a bit of rough who bags ladies just by breathing on them) explosives expert Left-Ear (Mos Def, who apparently is a rapper) computer expert Lyle (Seth Green, a small man who is possibly the best thing in the film, although this is not a taxing competition) and inside man Steve (Edward ‘show me the money’ Norton).

The job the crew carries out is the audacious theft of a mafia safe full of gold they just about get away with, after a fairly thrilling chase through the canals of Venice. However, the gang is double crossed, one of their number cops it, the gold is stolen by said double-crosser, and generally it all goes belly up for Croker and the gang. (The fact that Wahlberg’s expression is exactly the same at this point as it is when he is happy, or angry, or in fact when he is feeling any other emotion, should not be taken into consideration when watching this film).

From here, the film cuts to the United States, where a rather disgruntled Croker is out for revenge for his buddy’s death and the sizeable amount of gold which he feels is rightly his (although technically it’s the mafia’s, who in turn probably bought it using all the money they’ve exploited from north African prostitutes, but there you go). He hooks up with the daughter of his old mate Bridger (Bridger is a safe cracker on the wrong side of the law, his daughter works for the police cracking safes they can’t open… oh the irony) and together they bring the old crew together to steal back the safe from their old comrade turned wicked wrongdoer. (This review won’t give away plot spoilers and reveal the baddie, but needless to say it’s the one with the ‘tache, because as we all know this is a clear sign of badness – just look at Rene from ‘Allo ‘Allo). The rest of the action takes place in LA with a few twists and turns along the way, as well as a very big traffic jam (surely LA is just one big traffic jam anyway?) until the nail-biting finale. OK, less nail-biting than nail-buffing, but I’m sure you get the picture.

So, no Benny Hill, no ‘We are The Self-Preservation Society’ and no scarf-wearing Brits at the back of a lorry tilting precariously off a mountain in the Alps. Yes, there is a chase with the main characters whizzing around in their Minis, but this lasts about 5 minutes and the cars are chased by a couple of motorbikes and a helicopter, rather than thousands of Fiats. So ‘The Italian Job’ is not really ‘The Italian Job’ at all, just another competently made, untaxing, light as candy-floss action film with a few laughs thrown in for good measure, and one that will be forgotten about as quickly as you can say,

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’.

Italian Job Press Conference
The Italian Job (1969)

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