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The Bank Job (6/10)

by Tony Medley

In 1971 a brazen robbery occurred at Lloyd’s Bank in the Marleyborne section of London. Millions of pounds and some scandalous papers were part of the take. News of the robbery dominated the headlines for four days then disappeared from sight. People speculated that the Government had issued a “D” Notice (an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects, for reasons of national security) to squelch the news and what might be found.

Director Roger Donaldson and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais created this telling of the story, much of which is based on speculation, but some on fact. The bank was robbed, most of the people got away with it, and it disappeared from the newspapers after four days. Those are the facts. Whether or not the government issued a “D” Notice because it was protecting the Royal Family is, apparently, speculation. Admits Clement, “Obviously, we had no idea about any of the hidden agenda that’s in the movie, because so many aspects of it have never come to light before.”

The filmmakers say they changed the names “to protect the guilty,” which is a nice touch. Donaldson & Co. invented a fictional character, the beautiful Martine (Saffron Burrows), who is entrapped by Tim Everett (Richard Lintern) to recruit a team of lowlifes to pull a heist of the bank, the purpose being to recover some photos held by Michael X (Peter De Jersey), who becomes the inciting figure in the plot when he threatens to start a high-level scandal by exposing incriminating evidence stored in his safety deposit box on Baker Street. Explains co-producer Charles Roven, “MI5 and MI6 decided to set up a bank job so they could go ahead and steal this evidence and prosecute this guy. That was the reason for the whole set up.”

Martine enlists Terry Leather (Jason Statham, in a role divorced from his usual martial arts stuff), who in turn rounds up a gang of scruffy pals to pull it off. But Terry and his crew don't realize the boxes also contain a treasure trove of dirty secrets - secrets that will thrust them into a deadly web of corruption and illicit scandal that spans London's criminal underworld, the highest echelons of the British government, and the Royal Family itself, as everything goes wrong. Suddenly Terry isn’t just robbing a bank, he’s being chased by the police, MI5 and MI6, and by porn king Lew Vogel (David Suchet, TV’s Inspector Poirot, in a nice turn).

Unfortunately, the first hour drags shamefully as Terry puts together his gang and they drill into the bank. Only after they make their getaway from the bank does trouble arise and Terry tries desperately to salvage the situation and his life.

Despite some graphic violence to mar the film, if you can hang in for the first half, the last 40 minutes is entertaining.