Director Roger Donaldson (No Way Out) brings the story of an actual bank robbery to the big screen, with major elements of truth involved that were covered up by British secrecy laws; and somehow it all works. Yet, the final impression of The Bank Job starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays and David Suchet is that it could have been better. There was potential here for so much more and that it wasn’t realized leaves one feeling disappointed in the aftermath of a decent effort.
Statham is the lead, as Terry Leather, owner of a car dealership, trying to go legit after a history of shady, villainous dealings and he is in hock to a shylock at the time when Martine (Burrows), an old acquaintance shows up and lets him in on what appears to be the perfect crime. Robbing the safety deposit vault of a bank while the alarm system is off for impending replacement. Seems simple enough but what Terry doesn’t know is that Martine has been suborned by someone working for the British government after she was caught smuggling drugs. So the deal is, she gets someone to pull off this bank job and she gets off on the drug charge.
Why would the government do this? That’s a spoiler that will have to wait for the moment. Terry gathers his mates and they decide to do the job. What happens in the aftermath of the robbery, and the loss of more than just money by certain shady types becomes more than just problematic for the robbers, it becomes life-threatening.
What really happened in 1971? There was a bank robbery at that very bank. There were pictures taken of a certain member of the Royal Family that were kept in one of the safety deposit boxes by a criminal known as Michael X. Michael X was actually a “Black Power” organizer in Great Britain, who organized a commune known as Black House. Aside from his organizing, he was also a pimp and a drug smuggler. The film manages to ignore the fact that it was none other than John Lennon who paid his bail and defense attorney’s fees when he was arrested in Trinidad, but that’s another story.
After a few big headlines about the robbery, a D notice was issued and secrecy was the order of the day from that point forward. Many of the box holders refused to disclose the contents of their boxes and thusly, nothing was recovered. There was major corruption among the local police that was uncovered around this time.
Donaldson’s direction is taut, and he gets good performances from his actors. Statham, more at home in the action-film genre does his best and he gets away with it. David Suchet is deliciously evil as a local porn king. But the film slows at several points and there are subplots that don’t appear to drive the story, even though they are definitely part of what happened all those years ago. If it weren’t a true tale, it would still be a decent crime thriller. As a merger of drama and documentary, it is a bit better. Buy a big tub of popcorn and enjoy.