Bank Job, The (2008)

Rated: R for sexual content, nudity, violence and language
Grade: B+FFA=B/F
Length: 110 minutes.
Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $56 million ($30 US, $16 Int’l, $10 DVD)

Written by: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who’ve mostly done screenplays and adaptations for movies like Across the Universe, Flushed Away, and Goal.
Directed by: Roger Donaldson, who has made a bunch of excellent mystery/thrillers, including The World’s Fastest Indian, The Recruit, Thirteen Days, Species, Cocktail, and the excellent remake of No Way Out with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman.
Starring: Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows.

This is based on the true story of The Baker Street Robbery, one of the largest bank robberies of all time. When a small time London car dealer and petty crook is propositioned by an old flame to break into a bank’s safe deposit box room, he has no idea that he is placing himself in the middle of a political war involving pornographers, brothels, drug kingpins, Members of Parliament and MI6.

Entertainment Value: B+
We almost quit watching this movie after just ten minutes because of the content issues, but what kept us watching was my suspicion (it wasn’t in the opening credits) that this had to be based on a true story. As such, I was more willing to endure all the filth. In spite of it all, this was actually quite interesting to watch. It’s always hard to tell with movies “based on a true story,” but the majority of this was believable though it wouldn’t have been so in a purely fictional account. I have now concluded after two non-martial arts Jason Statham movies that his real talent is acting, not martial arts. A pity it took him so many bad action movies to figure that out.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity H, Violence F, Language F, Illegality F
Multiple graphic deviant sex scenes and nudity, constant profanity, several brutally violent scenes, and a handful of alcohol and drug references. The movie is truly atrocious on superficial content, and if that stuff bothers you, you will absolutely not enjoy watching this movie. But was it essential to telling the story? More on that in a moment.

Substantial Content: F
On the one hand, one might try to salvage a message here that the most foolish thing you can do is associate with known criminals, even if you don’t abet their crimes. And that message is present indirectly. But since they are successful in the end, it also clearly teaches that crime can pay handsomely. The government is made up of sexual deviants and corrupt intelligence services that cover up for them. Police are mostly in league with the criminals. And since there are no truly decent people in the movie, anyone you bond with is a problem, but you can’t help wanting Statham to succeed at least a little.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
The question here isn’t whether the movie is awful in superficial content, but whether the awfulness is essential to the telling of the movie. I think it probably is. Since it’s never portrayed in a particularly enticing or appealing way, the variety of evil things in this movie serves more to make plain what is going on behind the scenes without offering the audience a temptation to indulge in enjoying any of it…I hope. From a storytelling standpoint, it’s brilliant all the way through. And there are plenty of discussions that it could generate. Also, they made the time period very believable both in set construction and in film quality. It almost felt like the movie was made 30 years ago, but not in a bad way.

Discussion Questions:
~If they had known in advance how everything would turn out but not which of them would survive the experience, how many of Statham’s team would have agreed to try the job? Do you think Statham’s character is glad he did it?
~Who in this movie is happy at the end, if anyone?
~Why do you think powerful people are so prone to sexual deviance and risky behavior? Do you think they are more inclined to it than ordinary folks or do you think they just have more access to it with their money and power?
~With a robbery that was so massive, would you say it was worth it given that it led to the ouster of all the corrupt cops on the London police force?
~How would your perception of this movie have been different if they had also shown all the innocent people who had been victimized by the robbery? Why didn’t they show them?
~Does this movie wind up being an endorsement for crime or a warning against it?
~Do you think this movie could have been made without all the filthy superficial content? Was this at all essential to the movie? Compare a movie like Bonnie and Clyde for contrast.
~Would this movie have been entertaining if it hadn’t been based on a real event?
~Is it better for people to have a falsely rosy picture of their leaders and royalty or to know the grisly truth about them?
~In real life, the criminals were stunned to find many boxes containing child pornography, which they left open for the police to follow up on. How do you explain this behavior, and does it affect your view of the criminals?
Overall Grade: B/F
I can’t recommend it, but I will say that I felt it was both an entertaining movie and a fascinating historical event. Obviously I wonder to what degree it was faithful to reality.

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