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The Italian Job

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Italian Job

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton
Director: F. Gary Gray
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genres: Action, Thriller

*Also starring: Charlize Theron, Mos Def, Christina Cabot, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland, Simon Rhee

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Have you noticed that movie-goers often want the crooks to get away scot free with their loot? One can only imagine that juries are likewise influenced by various factors. For example, if you're as good looking as Charlize Theron (still the most beautiful performer in Hollywood) and as blandly handsome as Mark Wahlberg; if you have the rough, good looks of Jason Statham; have a special cuteness that worms its way into your funny bone like that of Mos Def and Seth Green; are as avuncular as Donald Sutherland with his thick, gray beard, charming smile and warm personality; you have a chance of beating the rap. If you look as sinister as the mustachioed Edward Norton in F. Gary Gray's new film, "The Italian Job," forget it. The crowd is going to applaud your downfall, particularly if your penalty appears to be other than a swift death. The characters chosen to fulfill Donna Powers and Wayne Powers' screenplay for this restructuring of the 1969 film of the same name by Peter Collinson are spot-on, though Michael Caine and Noel Coward could conceivably be considered the more sophisticated duo to be playing lead roles thirty-four years ago.

"The Italian Job" works in several ways. There are considerable intricacies in the building of a movie based on a heist of gold bars which takes considerable planning, further complicated by an unexpected double-cross by one gang member who wants most of the $34 million for himself. There is some originality in the chases, taking a trio of MINIs through a crowded railroad station and speedboats that far exceed the 5 mph limit in Venice, Italy. We're made privy to the importance of team playing, each character using his or her own special talents to make the heist successful.

We in the audience could probably figure out what's needed to load a safe full of $34 million in gold bars out of its palazzo where it's guarded 24/7. You'd want a brilliant safecracker, and you get it with Stella (Charlize Theron), who works for companies that need her to test the newest security devices. You'd want a computer hacker who could get into a city's traffic controls to speed your vehicles on their way while causing other traffic to back up behind red lights; you get that with Lyle (Seth Green). Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) intricately plans every step of the robbery behind the leadership of safecracker John (Donald Sutherland), who is the father of the beautiful Stella. Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) provides the driving skill and the exotic British accent while Left-Ear (Mos Def), deafened in one year by an explosion set years back in his school, knows explosives.

"The Italian Job" takes us from St. Marks Plaza in Venice to the Austrian mountains, then to Philadelphia and L.A. as gang members, thought by double-dealing Steve (Ed Norton) to be dead, cannot rest easy after pulling off a job requiring split- second timing. They must parlay their expertise into finding Steve and recovering the gold bars that were taken from them.

If you're looking for plot holes, you'll find them easily enough. For example, how did handsome Rob know that he could get a sleep-over date with a policewoman (Gloria Fontenot), which would enable him to steal her truck and make use of her uniform? How did the gang know, as they sped with their MINIs through a railroad station, that they would not hit pedestrians, thereby causing us to lose sympathy with them and foil their operation? All that comes with the conventions of caper movies, allowing us to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the twists of the plot, Ed Norton's skill at playing the heartless villain, and some stunning scenery of Venice and Charlize.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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