The Italian Job (2003)

Michael Caine is the coolest. Let us just get that out of the way before we dig in. Yes, Italian Job is a remake, yes the original starred Michael Caine, yes it was good, he was good, this isn?t a replacement? whatever. Don?t send me any e-mails. I don?t care. This version ain?t the original, but it?s a nice pile of fun in its own right, even if it probably is just another movie that really didn?t need to be remade.

But anyway, lets just ignore the original and focus. This one stars monkey mangler Mark Wahlberg as the leader of a team of heist experts sold out by one of their own. Seeking revenge they hunt down the traitor, played by a very bored Edward Norton, and to punish him, steal back what is rightfully their own. The idea here is that you get two mega heists in one picture? and of course two is always better than one. Two hot chicks are also better than one, but also more expensive, so Italian Job settled for one mega-hot babe in the form of Charlize Theron and spent the extra money on a fleet of Mini-Coopers. Theron is the all around lock pick, revenge-crazed, rebounding hottie who falls for Wahlberg in a sort of ambiguous way while seeking revenge for the death of her father (Donald Sutherland). Got it? Good.

The setup for this film is brilliant and stylish. It never gets boring even when we face minute after minute of casing and charting. A big part of that is the music, which except for the horrible choice of ?Money? for the closing credits, is original and kicky. Exactly the type of thing you?d want for a good robbery. The opening heist is great too. Fast paced, well planned, even a little surprising. Hard to do when the trailers have already given the final outcome away.

Where Italian Job falls flat isn?t in the setup, it?s the big finish, which as it turns out really isn?t all that big at all. Most of the movie after the first heist is spent planning the next. This thing is set up in detail, move after move? precious movie minutes of planning that are ultimately tossed right out the window in favor of a Wahlberg having everyone fly by the seat of their pants, in a hasty, last-minute maneuver.

Ok, fine, that?s forgivable, because the result is more time in the Mini-Coops, and frankly that?s the big finish we?ve all been waiting for. Unfortunately, it never quite arrives. Maybe I?ve just been spoiled by the jaw dropping chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded, but the ?big chase finish? to Italian Job just felt like it could have been more. The cars are cool? hella cool and director F. Gary Gray has some really beautiful shots of them shooting down tunnels and tearing through traffic packed streets. But again, there could have been more. For instance, how about having them take on that Aston Martin Vanquish we see Norton driving around? Or maybe even one of them fancy new Cadillacs???? Instead we get a deuce of lame cyclists, who after a few initial thrills go down fast. There?s a neat scene with a chopper, but that again was spoiled by the trailer. I?m not saying the chase is bad; it really is a lot of fun. Yet even I can think of a lot of ways they could have easily made it a LOT more.

What there is though is nice, and they could have ended it there. But the final solution is played out somewhere else on foot, with a silly, trite little game of Spy vs. Spy that frankly plays sadly false. Wahlberg and Theron really do give it their all though, even when the usually talented Norton gets a fairly glazed over look on his face. Maybe remakes are beneath him. I love him anyway.

The biggest joys come from the supporting characters who look to have been picked up from a more original movie. Jason Statham is always an eye-catching performer? and for once he gets to perform in a pretty decent film. Seth Green is hilarious, and Mos Def does a GREAT impression of former Sprite pitchman Orlando Jones, minus the buggy eyes. With a little spice from Donald Sutherland right off the bat, this group hits their pieces of the puzzle straight home in a coup-de-grace of teamwork and tricked out class.

The Italian Job has great things to offer initially, but falls a little flat in the final act. This isn?t the hyped up chase movie it was marketed to be, but it does deliver a solid double dose of old style Hollywood heist excitement.