Although I didn't particularly like The Bank Job, the film provides a window into an interesting time in London's history, when a sexually adventurous Royal caused more than a little trouble for the government and a group of thieves who stumbled into the conspiracy. Let's start at the beginning…
In 1971, a small gang of thieves broke into the safety deposit vault of a branch of Lloyd's Bank. The group had rented a shop down the street and tunnelled from the basement of the shop about 40 feet beneath a restaurant to get into the bank from below. A local ham radio operator overheard some of the chatter between the thieves and a lookout and brought the police in to see what they thought. After four days of coverage in the media, the situation suddenly went quiet when the government issued a D-Notice (effectively calling it a matter of national security).
Only recently were the reasons behind the D-Notice disclosed. Evidently Princess Margaret was an adventurous soul who traveled quite a bit in the Caribbean in the 1960s and '70s. Photos of a sexual nature taken of Princess Margaret on one or more of her trips were stored in a safety deposit box in the bank that was robbed that night in 1971. The photos supposedly were associated with Michael X, a Black Power leader in London at the time. Michael X was purportedly a man associated with prostitution and the drug trade in London as well. However, the files in London about Michael X won't be released until 2054, so who knows when that story will fully come to light.
(If you want to know more about the history involved, read this article in the Mirror. It's very interesting with lots of curious twists and turns.)
So now that you know a bit of the history that the movie is based on, you also know much of the plot of The Bank Job, which stars Jason Statham. Directed by Roger Donaldson and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the movie focuses on Statham's character, Terry Leather. Terry runs a car lot and used to run with a group of small-time thugs. He's approached by an old friend of his, Martine Love (played by Saffron Burrows), and told of a bank job. She thinks he should get the band back together and take advantage of the situation.
It only gets more convoluted from there. Between pimps, crime bosses, dirty cops, and politicians caught in all sorts of compromising positions, there are enough double crosses in this movie to keep everybody happy.
One of the things I thought was done well was that the look of the sets and costumes appeared quite historically accurate. I can't say I was around in 1970s London, but all the things in the background (clothing, glasses, furniture, etc.) lent themselves well to what I felt that time period should look like.
One thing I didn't really appreciate (though it served its purpose in the film) were the nude scenes and the S&M scenes. Though it was important to the plot, I had to wonder if it was a bit gratuitous in some places.
But my biggest complaint was the pacing of the movie. At 111 minutes, it seemed to drag in a number of places. Honestly, I can't say that it was the script (there were lots of juicy things to include as plot points), and it might not have been the director. But there had to have been some edits that could have tightened it up a bit.
I am a big fan of Jason Statham. The Transporter series, Crank, and Death Race have all been fast and fun. Statham just chugs through the scenery and looks great doing it. (I'm sure my wife wouldn't mind if I had his physique.) He's turning out to be a bit like Jean Claude and Steven Seagal; they play the same roles in all their films, they just have slightly different names and settings. This movie was a bit out of his normal line of roles, which is probably a good thing for his career.
Somehow, even he couldn't save this movie all the way. However, I think he did a great job in a more ensemble-type film than he's used to.
All of that said, I thought the end of the movie was quite good. All the double-crosses came to a head. The good guys (most of them, anyway) won. The bad guys lost. The Royals' precious honor was preserved. And all was good with the world. I just don't think it should have taken nearly two hours to get there.
The Bank Job had its moments, but they weren't enough to save this movie for me. I'm giving it two stars out of four.