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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Was This Popular? The Bank Job

Here at Celluloitering, I have decided to start a series called “Why Was This Popular?” in which I examine films that miraculously garnered critical praise despite numerous flaws and sometimes outright suckage. Have you ever seen a film that everyone else loved but that you thought was terrible? And you wondered what you were missing, what was wrong with your interpretation? You are not alone. If there are any popular films that you hate, leave a comment or e-mail them to me at mmcashan@gmail.com and I will feature them in the blog.

I was inspired to start this series by the 2008 film The Bank Job a dreadful heist picture directed by Roger Donaldson (Species, Dante’s Peak). Donaldson is not a bad director, just mundanely competent; and his films are only as good as his material. For example, he made the delightful 2005 film The World’s Fastest Indian in which Anthony Hopkins breaks the land speed record on his old souped-up Indian motorcycle. Then again, he also directed the 1994 remake of the Getaway which was never worth remaking in the first place. The Bank Job’s plot is as vague and pedestrian as it’s title. Former hood Terry Leather (yes, that's right, his name is Leather), played with indifference by Jason Statham (Snatch), and a congeries of hastily sketched ne'er-do-wells played by people I don’t particularly care about are hired by government officials to break into a London bank and steal some nasty pictures of Princess Margaret engaged in a steamy tryst. The pictures belong to Michael X, a black militant who is using the pictures to blackmail his way out of a prison sentence. A good heist picture requires that you be able to root for somebody (usually the thieves), but The Bank Job doesn’t provide well developed characters or character arcs. Furthermore, they aren’t particultly subtle or clever thieves, and their burglary is a variegated tapestry of incompetence. The criminally slow first 40 minutes is only made worse by a second half that is too fast, too choppy and too disorganized to follow. Also, a I the only one who noticed that the black political radicals in this film are depicted in the most egregiously stereotyped way possible? What little character development we see involves smoking weed and bedding white women (mindless, nattering white women devoid of personality, no less). The real Michael X, who called himself the “Britain’s Archbisop of Violence” and who was jailed for publically calling for the execution of interracial couples, was a despicable character—but at least he was a character. The film’s Michael X, played by Peter de Jersey, is a lazy, poorly drawn afterthought. Like all the other characters in the film, he is flat, lifeless and completely uninteresting to me. I don't care what happens to any of these people because the film sets them up to be two-dimensional pawns in a needlessly convoluted game of chess.

For a film based on a seemingly fascinating real-life case, The Bank Job is really very boring. I think we should begin clearly marking movies featuring Saffron Burrows because everything she touches turns to absute shite. And as much as I love Jason Statham, he’s no great thespian. Perhaps if the film was been made by David Mamet and starred Daniel Craig we would have had something. As it stands, the best thing about The Bank Job is the awesome leather jacket worn by Statham in most of the scenes.

Why it was popular: Awesome leather jacket, gratuitous tit shots, cool accents


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