Movie Reviews
4:23 pm
Thu May 29, 2003

The Italian Job

As a "re-interpretation" of the 1969 Michael Caine caper film, it stands up well with fast pace, fashion consciousness, and unique score.

"The Italian Job" is a stylish heist film beginning in Venice with exciting photography of St. Mark's and canal boat chases. As a "re-interpretation" of the 1969 Michael Caine caper film, it stands up well with fast pace, fashion consciousness, and unique score. Its modernization is primarily in technology: Computers can program all the stoplights in LA and graphically reproduce all the dimensions of a heist location.

Mark Wahlberg has taken Steve McQueen's place behind the "Bullitt" wheel in a cute-as-hell mini Cooper, racing under LA streets as McQueen did above-ground in San Francisco. McQueen is a better actor; in fact, Wahlberg has a smile as his only defining emotion, but still better than his tepid recent roles in "The Truth about Charlie" and "Planet of the Apes." ("Rock Star" is an exception, possibly because of his music experience). Donald Sutherland's cameo as the grizzled veteran is worth the admission price, and director F. Gary Gray ("A Man Apart") shows he can pace a film with the best of them. Edward Norton would like you to forget his traitor turn, and I find that easy to do.

Adding to the updated success is location shooting in Venice, LA, and Philadelphia by Wally Pfister, whose "Memento" cinematography is memorable. John Powell's ("Bourne Identity") musical score is modern without being intrusive. Additionally, some supporting roles are strong in concept and performance: a computer nerd (Seth Green) claiming to be the original creator of "Napster," a half deaf thief (too many M-80's at one time in a toilet bowl) called "Half" Ear (Mos Def), a tough crook called "Handsome Rob" (Jason Statham), and a lithe blonde (Charlize Theron) described as a "professional vault & safe technician."

The two major heists are carried with the watchful eye of an accountant and the spirit of "Ocean's 11." I laughed heartily at the outrageous but believable mechanics of removing huge safes but then remembered the equal true grace under pressure in "Rififi." I also reflected that this is just summer ("The Hulk" is still to come), and I relaxed with my brain at rest and my sensibility tuned into just enjoying slick films which don't need to impress critics with lofty themes and remorseful protagonists. Enjoy.