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Awesome: 12.39%
Worth A Look40.71%
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7 reviews, 71 user ratings

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Italian Job, The (2003)
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by Jack Sommersby

"Forgettable Except for Edward Norton's Glorious Cynicism"
2 stars

Well, it's more tolerable than "Ocean's Eleven" and many of its ilk, but is that really saying a whole lot?

For the uninformed, after principal photography for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner was completed and the film was put together in the editing room, it was decided by the studio heads that a voice-over narration was needed to clarify story points that were perceived to have been too vaguely conveyed. This met resistance from Scott, but no more so than with star Harrison Ford, who absolutely detested the mere notion; so Ford fulfilled the obligation, but grudgingly -- it was reported that he recorded the voice-over in the effort to make it come out as bad as possible. As it happened, though, it actually wound up working in the film's favor, for the droning, sullen tone of Ford's narration was in perfect keeping with that of his deeply cynical futuristic lawman character -- a more spirited narration couldn't possibly have made such lines by the unctuous likes of "They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper; that's what I was -- ex-killer, ex-blade runner" come off nearly as well. Something similar of the Ford-narration variety finds itself unexpectedly benefiting F. Gary Gray's remake of the 1969 caper film The Italian Job. Edward Norton, who plays the villain of the piece, didn't take part in the proceedings eagerly: due to a contractual obligation with Paramount Pictures to do one more film with them by a particular deadline, he, like Ford, grudgingly agreed to fulfill his duty; and, also like Ford, he didn't put on pretenses of lovey-dovey cooperation, for his performance here carries with it an aura of let's-just-get-this-over-with contemptuousness from first scene to last. Norton will probably not like my reporting, though, that this has turned out to be a positive -- it's one of the few things in this technically efficient, contextually vapid motion picture worth taking note of, and almost (and I mean almost) makes it worth recommending.

Norton plays a weasel of a scumbag named Steve who was part of a high-class ring of thieves who took down a thirty-two-million dollar gold-bullion score in Rome, which is detailed in the film's opening passages. The thing is, the character didn't take too kindly to the lavish, fatherly attention given to the second-in-command by the ringleader, which propelled him to arrange his own ring of thieves to rip his cohorts off. Ensuing from this: the ringleader was killed, the rest of the crew left for dead inside their getaway vehicle at the bottom of an icy river, and Steve made off with the booty. A year later, after having survived the ordeal, the surviving crew members take it upon themselves to even the score. They've managed to locate Steve, who's living it up in a plush gated mansion in Beverly Hills; he's laundered eight-million-dollar's worth of gold thus far, and the crew aims to steal the remaining twenty-four back. Before doing so, by having their arch-nemesis under constant surveillance, they're helpless in having to watch this undeserving, remorseless cad prancing about his high-dollar abode like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air with a dark side. As a critique of the sad state of television-addicted, materialistic Americana, the film paints Norton's Steve as a glowing emblem of this soul-deadening malady: though rich, he's not happy and hopelessly addicted to cable programming, which he habitually watches on the huge widescreen TV he proudly shows off to visitors like a parent would their adorable newborn. Yes, he has his expensive car and clothes and home, but it's the TV that makes this particular man, whose favorite wardrobe seems to consist of short-sleeve pullovers, loose pants, slippers and a bathrobe -- the perfect entrouge for some serious couch-potato bouts. If it weren't for having to exchange the gold bars for cash with a Russian black-marketer at the man's shop, he'd probably never leave home.

Privy to his TV addiction, his former crew uses it against him: to gain access to his home, they cut his cable service so they can send in a phony repairperson in the hope of spotting the location of his safe. When the cable connection is severed, he's simply devastated -- and mercilessly gut-funny the way Norton plays the situation out. I usually don't care for Norton. After giving impressive performances in films as diverse as Primal Fear, Everybody Says I Love You, and American History X, self-adoration/-satisfaction started permeating from his work, which rendered his heroes in Red Dragon unresponsive and closed-off; and being that his overly-mannered, gimmicky Method performances as small-time hustlers in Rounders and The Score drove me up a wall, I wasn't expecting the third time to be the charm this time around for him in sleazebag mode. Perhaps because of his desire to devote only the most minimal effort to the project there wasn't the energy to indulge in gimmicky, which leaves the self-adoration/-satisfaction, which appropriately bleeds into this character who's absolutely teeming with it. When Steve tries the power button on the TV remote and a blank screen is all that comes of it, his shifting expressions -- a widening of the eyes and gaping of the mouth in horrified disbelief, and then the scowling and locking of his jaw at the denial of privilege -- is simply priceless and had me laughing harder than at any Hollywood comedy in years. One can aver that Norton is transferring his disgust for having to appear in a formulaic film (as if The Score weren't painfully so from first scene to last) onto a device that his character would probably be watching it on if it were airing, or that he saw the social implications of the joke and exerted the effort to give rise to it. I'll vote the latter, even if Norton wouldn't be willing to admit it, because that could be chalked up as "effort."

And it's a good thing Norton's around to liven things up on occasion, because the rest of the film is uninspired and unremarkable -- another one of those action caper films that seems to possess the same barcode. Gray's direction is reasonably agile, and he stages the car-chase sequences with a good deal of proficiency (credit also being due Se7en editor Richard Francis-Bruce), but he can't work up much excitement because we couldn't care less about the cliched characters involved in them (there's the computer geek, the ladies man, the token black, etc.) or the story line that follows the standard caper-film template, even though some business with an armored car and a collapsing section of street is nicely worked out. There's also an element to the story that's a bit off-putting: the plan the "heroes" set out on involves stealing the gold back, rather than actually avenging the death of their leader, which is at cross purposes with the contempt levied at the Norton character's remorseless greed. (Actually, it's been plotted this way because if Norton were killed at the first opportunity, there wouldn't be a film.) Norton is a welcome sight compared to star Mark Wahlberg, who showed real screen presence and intensity as the Boyfriend from Hell in 1996's Fear but is dull as dishwater here, just like he has been in nearly everything else he's appeared in. The appealing Charlize Theron and always-welcome Jason Straitham help matters, but the gruesome Seth Green (as the so-called comic relief) is to acting what Dick Cheney is to scalp hair. All said, The Italian Job is preferable to the smug Ocean's Eleven, the arid Ronin, the enervating Heist, but it's more tolerable than enjoyable, more workmanlike than innovative -- the kind of ho-hum cinematic endeavor where the actor trying the least manages to give it more than his big-paycheck-seeking cohorts do giving their best.

Check out the more effective original instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7720&reviewer=327
originally posted: 12/25/04 13:06:06
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User Comments

3/24/18 morris campbell not bad but nothing special 4 stars
2/19/11 Ark Good stuff! 4 stars
3/29/10 Monday Morning They should have used Town Cars, not Mini-Coopers. 2 stars
2/17/08 Pamela White great plot and mini cooper heaven 5 stars
3/19/07 Stanley Thai A solid thriller. 3 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I've seen it a few times, and I enjoy it, but I can never remember it. 3 stars
1/05/07 Watch This Movie. Entertaining even after you watch it a few times. 4 stars
9/27/06 Indrid Cold An amiable but forgettable Ocean's Eleven-style heist movie. 3 stars
3/29/06 Stephanie Francis i loving it because it my favorite miovie ever 5 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer If you can't write a good "HEIST" movie... remake a classic. OR NOT!!! 3 stars
1/18/06 R.W.Welch Less inspired than the original but generally entertaining. 4 stars
1/14/06 tatum Slightly better than the original 4 stars
1/02/06 Anthony Feor The ride at Canada's Wonderland was better 3 stars
12/05/05 J.D. Pittman III It was slick. Their driving skills were almost equal to mine. 4 stars
11/26/05 Quigley better than ocean's eleven by a long shot. well acted, funny, and really cool. 5 stars
8/24/05 tony Awsome.No question about it! 5 stars
8/18/05 ES blah, meh, who cares= a movie no one will adore 2 stars
7/03/05 Ronin Typical Hollywood product. Nicely packaged piece of crap. Charlize Theron is great though. 3 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands The heists are great, but I didn't care for much else. GREAT technical filmmaking! 4 stars
4/03/05 Phil M. Aficionado Ho hum. I guess I should skip contrived action flicks that are ridiculous on their face 3 stars
3/07/05 Charlie Good, the original is definitely better, but the remake still rocks! 4 stars
2/20/05 Captain Craig Nothing original here, but entertaining anyway 4 stars
1/13/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Wahlberg is soooo dull. Mini Coopers are soooo hot! 3 stars
12/29/04 Katie Evridge Great action movie 5 stars
12/27/04 efrain Ho-Hum 3 stars
9/05/04 McReady In Antartica Not great, not bad either, Stella with her ponytail is bueatiful, cool chases 3 stars
7/25/04 Melissa Much better than I expected. Kept me riveted to the couch! 4 stars
5/01/04 Monster W. Kung So-so heist movie. Wahlberg has no charisma, as usual. 3 stars
4/26/04 el yosharto napster is really fucking hot!i loves him so iz handsome rob n charlie nice abs stella sux! 5 stars
3/05/04 max It made me want a mini. Thats bout it. 2 stars
3/03/04 Agent Sands Changed my mind. Original is better. This is 2 serious for its own good sometimes. 4 stars
2/07/04 homeburger88 Stella Bridger is so hott in this movie 5 stars
12/22/03 HorrorScribbler Mark steals gold, Seth and Mos Def steal movie 4 stars
12/12/03 Agent Sands A little better than the original. The heists are brilliant. Good cast & music. 4 stars
11/13/03 snowconehead Not inventive or clever, but decent enough to watch 3 stars
11/06/03 Capt' Fox Typical action/caper flick. Ok time waster - average movie. 3 stars
10/24/03 ILLEGALLY BLONDE Charlize Theron finally shows talent, even if by trying TOO hard not to be Ashley Judd. 4 stars
10/23/03 JJ This very entertaining caper movie is really worth watching with a good plot and action! 4 stars
10/14/03 Ronald A Weiss If you forget what happened in 1969, this is ok 4 stars
10/05/03 Kitty Great the 1st time round, okay the 2nd time round but the 3rd time was like "Kill me now.." 3 stars
9/24/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng I love this movie. Mark Wahlberg is wicked! A brillant all-star cast. 5 stars
9/21/03 Jonathan Nicholas Shit, If it wasnt called the italian job, you wouldnt see a simularity to original. 1 stars
9/05/03 alien assassin Better than most remakes. 4 stars
9/01/03 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch nothing special, but at least not boring 3 stars
8/27/03 Mr. Hat Definitely 1 of the best heist movies ever. And I watch lots. All cast & crew R excellent!! 5 stars
8/19/03 Robert Beveridge seriously underwhelming 2 stars
8/18/03 Boris Great fun! Does everything have to be rocket science, people? 5 stars
8/14/03 Paul Dempsey This job should put Marky Mark on the unemployed list for good! 1 stars
8/14/03 JJ from da block Italian job blows...and the mini cooper is a honda civic station wagon from yesteryear 1 stars
7/09/03 Joe Charlize would do a better job with my 8" hammer in her ass. 2 stars
7/09/03 yot kim not very good 1 stars
7/08/03 6th Sense Ho-hum heist movie, been there, done that. . . 3 stars
7/03/03 Jake Awsome movie, video game is even better 5 stars
6/27/03 toneely This film is a great litle escape!! I loved it!! 5 stars
6/18/03 Fonq35 go watch the fucking original 2 stars
6/16/03 Andrew Carden Theron Is Great, but She Cannot Save This Inept Film... 2 stars
6/15/03 Benjamin Lesbian Thoroughly enjoyable heist film. Not as clever as Ocean's 11, but still worth your cash. 4 stars
6/14/03 Mini-Cab This here's a story about the Mini Cooper, the car chases are really super duper... 4 stars
6/14/03 Jax Sweet. I don't know. My boyfriend thought it was okay, too. 4 stars
6/11/03 FLiK eh...it was better than 2 fast 2 furious... 4 stars
6/09/03 F. Gary Gray To Scott Weinberg: bear in mind that the guy who made this also did A Man Apart 2 stars
6/08/03 MicBang Good flick 4 stars
6/05/03 your worse goddamn nightmare it was all fluff and fireworks, but entertaining at the least 3 stars
6/04/03 vagile no surprises but good fun 4 stars
6/03/03 Jack Bourbon Nice finish to Norton's slimy character. Better flick than expected. 4 stars
6/01/03 malcolm well-acted, nice characters in spite of being a summer popcorn film 4 stars
6/01/03 ajay if you're going *for* Charlize, then don't. It's a good heist movie though. 4 stars
6/01/03 37!!!!! I like car chases! I like Charlize Theron! I like this movie...good summer fun! 5 stars
5/31/03 mee good 4 stars
5/31/03 maximus probably worth a look. nothing we haven't seen before but entertaining enough 4 stars
5/25/03 Greg Edmiston Just saw a sneak peak.... it was fucking insane! A- 5 stars
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  30-May-2003 (PG-13)



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