Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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The Italian Job (2003)

Film #470

THE PLOT

After being betrayed and left for dead in Italy, Charlie Croker and his team plan an elaborate gold heist against their former ally.

Year 3, Film #20

THE GOOD: After a certain point in this movie, all I could think about was The Italian Job (2003) is like a toned-down version of Ocean’s Eleven (that’s a good thing, by the way). For starters, both are remakes of older films (the original Ocean’s 11 was in 1960 and The Italian Job in 1969) which I have not seen. But they’re also similar in a more important way: they both have a certain energy and camaraderie to them that make them fun to watch. Most often in describing a film and why it’s so appealing, I use words like exhilarating, intriguing, engaging, or more often the generic “entertaining”. While The Italian Job could certainly be classified as all of those, “fun” is somehow more apt.

You’ve got the core gang, led by Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), supported by Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), Lyle (Seth Green), Left Ear (Mos Def), with Stella (Charlize Theron) and Wrench (Franky G) joining later. Their job: steal a ton (literally) of gold from ex-member Steve (Edward Norton) who betrayed the team and stole all the gold from them in Italy. Also thrown in for good measure, there’s an added vengeance motive for Stella after Steve killed her father (Donald Sutherland).

Not too complicated and also quite innovative. It’s not going to win any big creativity awards — there’s only so much variation you can do on a heist film — but The Italian Job keeps it fairly fresh. The outcome is somewhat predictable, but the road to get there has its twists and turns and keeps things interesting along the way. You’re never bored or feel like nothing is going on; there’s always something to pique your attention. That’s thanks in part to the constant slew of new plans and schemes that the gang goes through as they iterate and prepare for each step, from infiltrating the cable company, to setting explosives, to getting souped-up Mini Coopers.

But where the fun is really derived from is the gang. Not really the individual characters, although they each have their role to play, but it’s the group as a whole that brings the energy. While it’s about half the size as the crew in Ocean’s Eleven, they still get that same basic, we’re-going-to-rob-shit-and-it’s-going-to-be-badass vibe. It’s absolutely absurd, the events that take place in the film (there’s no way you can set explosives that precisely underneath a main road, have cars drive down stairs and through subway tunnels at high velocities, and many other crazy occurrences), but these people make it look like it’s everyday life. And that, above all, is what makes this film so great. It makes it feel like a game you and a group of neighborhood friends would play on a nice day, but increases the stakes and scope of it to be this massive, outrageous heist.

THE BAD: The only downside is that the film is missing a bit of humor. It may not be fair to compare The Italian Job to Ocean’s Eleven in this way, but put the two side-by-side, one has you laughing once every couple scenes, if not every scene, and the other only has a few scattered throughout. This isn’t to say The Italian Job didn’t compensate for this lack of humor in other ways. The action, the camaraderie, setting up the heist; it kept it all light and entertaining. But the reason I’m going to dock some points for The Italian Job here is because there were little breadcrumbs of what I was looking/hoping to see, but no bakery supplying it (I have no idea if that analogy makes sense, but I’m going to roll with it).

Lyle, aka Napster, is obviously the comedic relief. Right from the beginning you can tell he’s the goofy guy with the big tech background, sort of like Livingston Dell in Ocean’s Eleven, but much funnier. However, he only has a handful of moments where they let his opportunities for humor shine instead of allowing the laughs to flow more freely. I think my two funniest moments dealt with Lyle controlling the traffic and both received laughs loud enough that I’m sure passersby on the street were probably wondering what was going on. 

THE TAKEAWAY: The Italian Job (2003) is a very fun, very Ocean’s Eleven-esque film that follows a tight-knit gang on a heist to steal back their gold. It may not be full of laughs, but this film will entertain you in many other ways. Well worth a watch if you’re looking for a way to spend two hours this weekend.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5