The Bank Job

Directed by Roger Donaldson (Lions Gate) - 2 stars

“The Bank Job” is the latest movie from British action-film mainstay Jason Statham, whose cockney wit and sexy bald head have been a continuous draw at the box office. Viewers traditionally find Statham in gritty yet humorous London crime capers like “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.” But putting “The Bank Job” on the same level as those rowdy action-comedy hybrids would be a mistake. The film is a disappointment that fails to bring together its various crime movie elements with any cohesion or creativity.

“The Bank Job” seems to have all the ingredients for an enjoyable viewing experience. Bank robbery? Check. Organized crime figures? No doubt. Government conspiracy? Uh-huh. Surely large audiences will flock to the theater based on this appeal alone, but they shouldn’t.

“The Bank Job” features a series of characters who at first seem completely unconnected but are gradually drawn together by the incongruous plot, which combines a bank robbery with a government cover-up. There’s Terry Leather (Statham), a small-time crook and owner of a body shop who has trouble keeping hired goons from smashing his car windows. Then we have Michael X, the hilariously stereotypical fist-raising Black Panther from Trinidad. He’s one of the bad guys, the movie tells us—can’t you tell from the Malcolm X posters and the afro?

There’s also a slew of other characters, including Terry’s Eastender crew, a porn director, iconic British bobbies, and numerous sketchy government cover-up artists in suits. Finally, we have Martine Love, played by Saffron Burrows, who serves as the requisite gorgeous female lead and plays Terry’s foil and love interest.

Take these characters, add a bank where the managers decide to shut the alarms off for a week, top it off with a healthy dose of gratuitous nudity, and you have the script of “The Bank Job.”

The movie sets the bar pretty high for itself in the opening twenty seconds. In a film as shamelessly catered to masculine audiences as “The Bank Job,” one thing is assured: partial female nudity. The movie opens in a beachy Caribbean setting in which half-naked women splash around in crystal-clear water. Everyone’s having a good time, right? Immediately the scene cuts to a beachside menage-a-trois. Talk about throwing a bone to the audience.

The movie eventually collapses into a sloppy mess. The dialogue is inane and stale, and the attempts at witty punch lines and dry humor consistently fall flat. The generic suspense movie soundtrack also gets boring fast. Few of the characters in this story have any on-screen chemistry at all.

The pace of the film is quick but jerky, and the first half seems disconnected from the second. Finally, the script seems to feature numerous comedic motifs that are just annoying: for instance, one of Terry’s crew is an ex-porn star who “walks around town with a 12-inch mutton shank.” I believe the director should know that the British have not reverted to the Imperial system of measurement.

There are a few aspects of this film that may justify a viewing, if you can overcome its big flaws. The setting feels authentically English: the accents, clothing, and haircuts create an immersive 1970s London vibe throughout. Furthermore, it’s always exciting to watch Statham, especially in his native London. Just don’t expect this to be vintage Guy Ritchie.

The moral of the story? Mashing a bunch of cops, criminals, and suits together in London does not automatically make for a fun movie. Jason Statham, to whom audiences continually look for that hyper-masculine British charm, can only provide so much within the confines of a shoddy script and bad directing.