The Italian Job movie review

A scene from 'The Italian Job'
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***1/2 stars
102 minutes | Rated: PG-13
WIDE: Friday, May 30, 2003
Directed by F. Gary Gray

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Christina Cabot, Mos Def, Franky G, Giancarlo Giannini, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland

This film is on the Best of 2003 list.


You really want to get this movie in wide-screen to let those incredible chase sequences breathe.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 10.07.2003
Packed with good making-of features put together just for the DVD, this disc's bonus goodies cover every aspect of the movie from the custom cars to the actors in driving school to the script and how little resemblence it bears to the 1969 original - and none of these bonuses recycle the same interview footage (a rarity in DVDs with multiple featurettes).

It's disappointing that there's no commentary track, especially since director F. Gary Gray is so articluate about his vision in his interview segements. But that's the kind of thing you rarely listen to more than once, and what this disc does offer should satisfy fans of the film.

Trailer. Deleted scenes.

Impecable on both counts.
Dolby 5.1 & 2.0 options.

RATIO: 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: French
SUBS: English


A simpler movie from a simpler time (there's only one heist and no double-cross twist), the 1969 original "Italian Job" still more than gets by on its Cockney-caper attitude and Michael Caine's criminal charm. The car chases are a Sunday drive compared to the remake, and often clever without being logical. But the flick has a witty and wild sense of the '60s that's a lot of fun.

The DVD extras, however, are a serious case of overkill. There's almost 90m of making-of featurettes that take themselves awfully seriously for a caper picture full of plot holes and cover everything from the director's orphanage childhood (described by his widow) to interviews with bit players (and none of the primaries), stuntment and lyricists for the title song, who blab on about the singer's favorite line. The commentary track is for serious fans only as the producer and author of a making-of book delve deep into the movie's behind-the-scenes minutia.

Trailers. Deleted scenes.

Transfered from a pretty good print, the film has some single-frame imperfections
Remastered in Dolby 5.1 or 2.0.

RATIO: 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: French
SUBS: English

THE FILM: **1/2

  • Heist flicks
  • Adreniline-fueled car chases
  • F. Gary Gray
  • Mark Wahlberg
  • Edward Norton
  • Charlize Theron
  • Mos Def
  • Franky G
  • Giancarlo Giannini
  • Seth Green
  • Jason Statham
  • Donald Sutherland

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Watch the trailer (
    Revamped euro-teeny cars costar with great cast in snappy, smart, sensational caper 'The Italian Job'

    By Rob Blackwelder

    A slick, sexy car-chase flick and a stimulating heist picture rolled into one, director F. Gary Gray's enjoyably escapist remake of 1969's action-caper "The Italian Job" is smarter, more tense and less predictable than its big-budget style and car-product-placement plot would lead you to expect.

    Most action movies are stamped out of cookie-cutter molds. But I genuinely didn't know how the criminal-heroes were going to pull off this picture's elaborate, crook-vs.-crook climactic heist involving an armored-car shell game and new BMW Mini Coopers small enough to navigate through Los Angeles traffic jams, onto sidewalks and into subway tunnels.

    My interest was piqued long before this payoff, however. The opening scene packs a great punch, as a charming, aging safe-cracker (Donald Sutherland) revels in the thrill of what he hopes will be his farewell to larceny and his crime career's piece de resistance. In Venice with an eclectic younger crew he's mentored (and now works for), they aim to steal a safe full of gold from an ancient mansion by blasting an exact-sized hole in all the floors between the safe and the canal water in the boat garage beneath the building.

    As crafty and cracking with terrific tension as the robbery is, the James Bondian speed-boat-and-scuba-gear getaway is even smarter and contains only a bare minimum of obligatory capsized-gondola clichés.

    Then comes the double-cross. A smarmy, pimp-mustachioed member of the gang (played by Edward Norton with entertaining relish) makes off with the entire $35 million in gold bars, leaving everyone else for dead after running their van off a bridge and emptying a clip of ammo into the river below. (That scuba gear comes in handy for the survivors.)

    A year later, back in the U.S., the Italian job's mastermind (Mark Wahlberg) has tracked down Norton, so he reassembles the Venice crew (explosives man Mos Def, goofball techie Seth Green and glib, cockney-tough getaway driver Jason Statham), planning to get revenge in another sophisticated safe-cracking sting. But Wahlberg's strategy depends on recruiting Sutherland's curvy, whip-smart legit-world daughter (Charlize Theron), who does break into safes for a living -- she just does it at crime scenes for the FBI.

    All kinds of complications arise -- not the least of which is that Norton has wised up and is on to them -- adding snappy twists and sly, on-the-fly alterations to Wahlberg's plans. But Gray has a firm grip on his convoluted plot and the result is a crisp, sharp-edged popcorn flick intelligent enough to satisfy moviegoers who want something more from a summer movie than hackneyed video-game heroics.

    With the exception of Wahlberg, who is satisfactory but a bit colorless as an actor, the entire cast pops with personality and wit. Sutherland is especially memorable for his smooth but cautious confidence, tinged as it is with an underlying regret for having "spent half my kid's life in prison." And rapper Mos Def is a surprising standout as the explosives expert with a comical phobia of guard dogs. ("I had a bad experience," he explains sheepishly. "What happened?" asks Wahlberg. Def responds, "I had...a bad...experience.")

    "The Italian Job," which borrows the Mini Cooper getaway gimmick but not much else from the European original, keeps the adrenaline pumping with clear, energetic cinematography and a nimble, bluesy-jazz score (by John Powell, "The Bourne Identity") that incorporates a marching-band drumline undercurrent to enhance the movie's chic tension.

    The intricacies and unforeseen snags of the plot are at least as exciting as the car chases, and the fact that Gray ("The Negotiator") embraced -- even enhances -- this fact is part of what makes this film the first real cineplex stand-out of the summer.

    Only at the very end does Gray drop the ball, employing an I-don't-know-how-to-end-my-movie voice-over wrap-up of all the story's loose ends. But even with this feeble screenwriting crutch of an epilogue, "The Italian Job" may still be the best action movie of the year.


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