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IN SHORT: Pretty much fun with a capital "F," or, a thoroughly enjoyable film. [Rated PG-13 for violence and some language. 105 minutes]
During the walk out of the theater after screening The Italian Job, some critics behind us were bitching, "Why are we supposed to feel sympathetic for crooks ripped off by another crook and root for their revenge rip off scheme?" Our answer is "Because it' happens to be a whole lot of fun and a great bit of revenge -- besides, we sit through enough crap in any given year in comparison to this delightful confection that, the hell with nit picking, you (other critics) should just learn to shut up and just enjoy the movie!
Sorry, it's been a very stress filled week.
The Italian Job is a sleek, sexy and sophisticated rip off and revenge scam featuring great on screen chemistry not only between stars Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron but also good characterization of and support by the supporting goons and a slick bad guy job by Edward Norton . In short, for the second time, it's a thoroughly enjoyable film.
We learn deep things about the minds of professional criminals early on in The Italian Job. First, a good job is a good job regardless of whether doing it means violating ones parole -- which young Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron) discovers when she makes her weekly call to beloved father John (Donald Sutherland) and finds that he's in Venice, Italy (where he is, obviously, not supposed to be) Second, we learn that having skills like stunt driving and safecracking and a genetic connection to a known criminal does not mean that the apple falls far from the tree. Stella, it seems, puts hers to use on behalf of what ever police department will pay the very lovely freelancer for her skills.
John Bridger is hooked up with criminal mastermind Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and his crew of clever and colorful cons: his Number One (Edward Norton), techno-hacker Lyle (Seth Green), ladies man Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), mechanic Wrench (Franky G) and demolitions expert Left-Ear (Mos Def), each of whom have their particular larcenous specialties. The job in Venice is a can't miss rip-off of $37 millions of gold bullion and it goes flawlessly, as does a fast escape to the mountains of Austria to divvy up the spoils.
Divvy, in this case, means "kill everyone but me" -- you can figure out the top level of survivors from in-context reading. We're avoiding mention of the particular sublevel surviving hoods because that revealing who lives and dies takes the fun out of the great writing that gives each "survivor" his own personal gimmick. Some are in the film's teevee ad and trailer so, if you've been exposed, don't blame us.
With the "goodest" of the bad guys settled in Philadelphia long after the events described as Act I, reports bubble to the surface of gold bullion being fenced in Los Angeles. Wahlberg and whatever is left of his crew move in to the City of Angels to confirm the reports and, if true, work a sly scam to rip off the armored mansion of The Betrayer, now going by the name of Steve Frezelli. Frezelli has money but he doesn't have a super model on his arm, which is where Theron comes into the big picture, having slipped to the dark side because that's what a loving daughter will do for daddy.
The best laid plans (and so on and so forth) fall astray with a whomp in the hills of Beverly. With Frezelli aware that Charlie and Company are coming gunning for him he runs like hell. So, how do you pull off a robbery when the target knows you're coming? You bring the City of Los Angeles to its knees. If you want to avoid the unnecessary publicity that would come with that action -- you can tell these guys aren't from LA 'cuz they don't want the publicity -- you mess up traffic even worse than usual. Doing so brings to the big screen a modernized shell game chase involving mini cooper subcompact cars, a trio of armored cars, a whole lot of railroad trains -- surface and subterranean -- and the Ukrainian mob.
Too much gold. Too many characters. Too much traffic in a city where, for most of the upper-upper-upper class "too much" is never enough. It all adds up to a great summer movie that's too much fun -- a description that would be oxymoronic in and of itself except that it wraps in LA and we've just explained LA to y'all. Buy the big popcorn combo and settle in for a fine time.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Italian Job, he would have paid . . .
We find it amusing that a man who chooses to call himself Mos Def (as in mostly deaf?) in real life should play a character who is mostly deaf, but that's probably just us. And, no, that doesn't spill the character's gimmick.
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