Here is how a heist film works: Characters are established, each with their own specialty; they come up with a plan to steal something valuable; they attempt to execute the plan, but they have issues in doing so; they either overcome the problems or they fail. There are many plot twists throughout, often times a partner will switch sides, betraying the main cast. The villain will figure out the scheme mid-way through, leaving the “heroes” in a spot of trouble that they will likely persevere through.
Heist movies are notorious for being easy to figure out. If there isn’t a plot twist around each corner, or if they characters performing the heist have an easy time with their job, then the film is actually considered original. Originality is something that the 2003 remake of The Italian Job does not have a lot of. It follows practically every cliché of the heist film genre to a tee, but executes them with a certain style that still allows it to be watchable.
That’s about as far as my praise for the film would go, however, because besides the fact that it makes for a somewhat entertaining watch, it doesn’t have much else going for it. Its characters don’t develop much, the plot twists are predictable and the action scenes, while not boring, aren’t original in the least. The story also doesn’t end up mattering much, as it is just there to give the characters are reason to become thieves.
The film opens up with John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) talking to his daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) on the phone. He has decided to take one more job before he retires from the heist business for good. (The “One Last Heist” is also another cliché in the genre.) He enlists the help of a few other people, who will become more important later on. After a brief series if events, the heist is successful. The group steals of 35 million dollars worth of gold. After getting away with the heist, they are betrayed by one of their group members, Steve (Edward Norton), while John is killed. Steve believes everyone else dies too, but they live.
Meeting up a year later, the group Steve believed to have killed has found him. They have decided to steal back the gold that was taken from them. Charlie (Mark Wahlberg) is the brains of the operation, Stella is to break into the safe, “Handsome” Rob (Jason Statham) is the getaway driver, Lyle (Seth Green) is the technical wizard, and “Left Ear” (Mos Def) is the explosives engineer. Everything is planned, and the heist should go off without a hitch.
If, at this point in the review, you are wondering if the heist is pulled off cleanly and easily, you should just go and watch The Italian Job. You clearly have not seen enough heist films, and therefore will genuinely be surprised when the plot goes further than what I have already described. If you already know the answer, then you don’t really have much reason to watch the film, as there won’t be much in it for you.
The only thing that you could possibly get out of the film would be some entertainment from various action sequences. However, if that is your only reason for watching the film, then you might as well just watch a pure action film, one that wouldn’t be bogged down with the details that come from a heist film.
If you are watching it just for some of the actors involved, then I suppose you have a valid reason for watching it, and I would hope not to deter you from doing so. All of the actors are compatible with their characters, no one seemed out-of-place, and there weren’t any poor performances. No great performances either, but in a film like this, settling for “good” is just fine. There isn’t any reason to raise the bar, because people watching for great characters aren’t watching the correct film.
No, character development isn’t the strength of The Italian Job. In fact, there is almost no development of the characters, and the only characterization we get is when the characters are introduced to us. We could start to care about them, as we are given enough reasons to, but for some reason, we don’t. The primary motivation in their heist is revenge, and yet, it doesn’t feel like they cared enough about Bridger’s death to feel the need to avenge it.
The Italian Job is a heist film, and with that genre, comes clichés that almost always apply. They do apply in this film, and they make the film very predictable. There are some fun action sequences, and if you are a fan of the actors, it isn’t a total waste, but you can do far better in terms of heist films or action scenes. It’s not terrible but it isn’t all that good either.