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THE ITALIAN JOB
2003

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def, Franky G, Donald Sutherland
Director: F. Gary Gray
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 7, 2003

“There are two kinds of thieves:  people who steal to enrich their lives, and people who steal to define their lives.”

Film ***

Not since Ocean’s Eleven has there been a heist movie where it was so cool to root for a gang of thieves. Director F. Gary Gray’s remake of The Italian Job isn’t so much a straight forward remake of the 1969 original starring Michael Caine. Several settings and plot developments have been rearranged, yet much of the heist movie gimmicks are indeed still in check. One of the trademark elements of the original movie was its use of the mini cooper automobile, which is more or less the star of this version.

The story opens in Venice, where a group of professional thieves are pulling off a risky heist involving 35 million dollars worth of gold. Leading the job is veteran thief John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), though the initial mastermind is protégé Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), who’s planned this master plan down to a tee. They succeed in stealing the gold, which includes a decoy escape via a high speed motorboat.

But then an unexpected double cross happens, when one of the heist-men, Steve (Edward Norton), turns on the gang in a plot to keep all the gold for himself. Killing John, and leaving the rest for dead, Steve eludes with his own henchmen, as well as all of the gold. It’s needless to say that it’s time for some much deserved payback.

Cut to a year later, as Charlie, alive and well, gets a tip from a connection about Steve’s whereabouts, which is Los Angeles. Charlie intends to devise a plot to steal the gold back, but he needs a hired hand to help crack the particular safe their nemesis has. It’s an elaborate plan that calls for the perfect safecracker.

For this matter, he turns to Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron), a professional safecracker whose work is in compliance with the police. She is John’s daughter, and hasn’t forgiven Charlie for pulling her father in for one last job and then dying unexpectedly. She eventually signs on, insisting that she wants to see the reaction from the man who killed her father once his gold is gone.

Charlie then assembles his crack team once they arrive in L.A. The members of his team include Lyle (Seth Green), a computer hacker who prefers the nickname “The Napster” since he claims that Napster creator Shawn Fanning was his college roommate, and stole his setup data while he was napping. Then there’s Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), the getaway driver who has a knack for wooing the ladies when a necessary diversion is needed. Lastly, there’s Left Ear (Mos Def), the demolitions expert who’s partially deaf, thanks to an explosive experiment he tried in his school bathroom when at the age of 10.

The heart of the movie is no doubt to climatic heisting of the gold, which results in a spectacular car chase involving three separate mini coopers, one white, one red, and one blue. I must confess that after watching this movie, I wanted to go out and buy one immediately. Judging by the footage in the movie, which is actually short on CGI, the minis are able to fit in the tightest areas. Not that I would go right out and attempt any of the stunts. It’s just that the cars look so darn cool.

The Italian Job is simply one of those movies that is very hard not to like. It’s clear that word of mouth played a part in the movie’s success, as it went on to become one of the big sleeper hits of the summer. Filled with kinetic energy, terrific performances, and some incredible automobile stunts, this is one thrilling movie heist you should definitely take part in.

Video ****

Add another top flight presentation to the Paramount library. The Italian Job is given a truly wonderful sense of style, thanks in part to director F. Gary Gray, and the video presentation illustrates this factor scene for scene. The anamorphic picture is consistently sharp as always, with the usual array of assorted and astonishing colors. Scenes both light and dark prevail triumphantly, with no picture flaws found on either side. Both Italy and Los Angeles have never looked so outstanding, in the same movie no less. A full screen version is available separately.

Audio ****

What a blast! The 5.1 mix supplied by Paramount is one rockin’ ride of an audio presentation. The movie only contains about two huge action sequences, one early in the movie and the other at the closing point, and yet this track is able to keep the audio power alive for the entire running time. The ultra-cool, and at times retro music score by John Powell is a major plus. Plus when Left Ear’s handmade explosive equipment comes into play, you are likely to be, well, blown away. Dialogue is also at the highest level of clarity. Solid presentation to the fullest.

Features ***1/2

Though a potential commentary track is missing from the lineup, Paramount still managed to include enough extras to qualify for a Collector’s Edition release. First starters, there’s a grand total of 5 documentaries; “Pedal to the Medal: The Making of The Italian Job”, “Putting Words on the Page for The Italian Job”, “Italian Job-Driving School”, “The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job”, and “High Octane: Stunts From The Italian Job”.

Also included are six deleted scenes, a trailer, and bonus trailers for Timeline, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and The Adventures of Indiana Jones.

Summary:

The Italian Job makes for not only a cool piece of fast paced entertainment, but a solid DVD offering from Paramount, who have no less gone for the gold with this noteworthy release.