Finally, a remake of the 1969 caper classic, “The Italian Job”. It’s just what everyone in the movie industry has been waiting for and it is the most anticipated film of the year. Yeah, right. At first, I could not even remember having ever heard of a film entitled “The Italian Job”, until I saw the trailer for the remake with the mini-coopers driving down stairs and on sidewalks. Those scenes brought back my memory of the film, which starred Michael Caine, Benny Hill, and Noel Coward — you don’t get much more British than that. But, why remake it? The film was a classic. There was no need to remake it.
The basic plot is simple. There are a gang of thieves (Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def, Donald Sutherland) who steal $35 million worth of gold. However, Norton double crosses the rest of the gang, shoots the leader, and flees with the loot. So, it is up to Wahlberg and Charlize Theron, along with the rest of the crew, to exact revenge on Norton and take back the gold which he originally stole. How do they plan to steal it? Well, by rigging all of the traffic lights in Los Angeles, creating the largest traffic jam in history, and by driving mini-coopers, the small cars that can drive on sidewalks and up and down stairs, making their escape that much more complicated. Phew, that was a lot of plot.
It was reported by several sources that Edward Norton loathed working on this picture. He tried getting out of his agreement with the picture, but could not do so, and eventually decided to just ride it out and hope for the best. His distaste for the material is very evident on-screen. He looks unhappy and discontent throughout the film and he smart-asses his way through scenes that do not need such a deadpan delivery. Mark Wahlberg is as rigid and overbearing as ever, Charlize Theron is oddly misplaced in this picture, and the only worthwhile performances come from Donald Sutherland and Seth Green, for the mere fact that they look happy to be involved with this flick.
I did not like the way they altered the film from the original. Wahlberg takes over the role originally portrayed by Michael Caine, Seth Green takes over for Benny Hill, and the character played by Noel Coward is left out altogether, and that really turns this from a remake into an insult. How can you keep the mini-coopers, and then ditch the Noel Coward character? If you’re going to do a remake, at least try and show some respect.
Overall, this was not a bad picture; it just had no reason to be made. The performances were not utterly terrible, though Wahlberg seems to get worse with each picture, instead of better. The action sequences were enough to keep the audience entertained, though the mini-coopers have lost some of their appeal. And, the direction was pretty good, considering the director is F. Gary Gray, someone who has never really had the tendency to dazzle.
So, if you are not completely tired of caper and heist films already, “The Italian Job” might tickle your fancy, though the original is better by leaps and bounds. Actually, just forget this film and go rent “The Score” — Norton looks happy in that film and the plot is not totally different. Rethinking my approach, you can wait until video to see this one.