March 25, 2008 -- “The Bank Job” is an intense caper movie with a plot that would be far-fetched if it were not based on fact. How much is fact and how much is fiction is impossible to tell since most of these events are still shrouded in mystery more than 35 years later. If this movie is any guide, the famed London bank robbery on September 11, 1971 is one of the strangest bank robberies in history. The elaborate bank robbery conspiracy allegedly involves the British government, the royal family, London law enforcement and international organized crime figures.
The film's central figure is a small-time crook, Terry Leather (played by Jason Statham of “Crank”) who is trying to go straight selling used cars, but he has severe financial difficulties. He is having trouble making ends meet. A local loan shark is threatening to take his inventory of used cars and break his kneecaps if he doesn't pay what he owes. An old flame, Martine Love (Saffron Burrows of the TV series “Boston Legal”) offers him a bank job. She says she knows of a London bank that is ripe for the picking since its alarm system will be out of commission for a week. Terry gets a team of crooks he knows to do the job, including a torch man, Bambas (Alki David) and a con man, Guy Singer, known as The Major, (James Faulkner) to run the shop near the bank which is a front for a tunneling operation. Joining in on the heist are Terry's friends, Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Dave Shilling (Daniel Mays). Terry later talks one of his employees into acting as a lookout across the street from the bank equipped with a walkie talkie.
The thieves manage to break into the vault, but they are not exactly competent. Their walkie talkie communications are a little too descriptive. The messages are intercepted by a local ham radio operator, who alerts the police. The police and bank authorities start checking the banks in the area. The British Secret Service also knows all about the bank robbery. The thieves have been set up by Martine Love and agents are waiting to nab them as soon as they leave the bank. The robbery was masterminded by the Secret Service to obtain scandalous sex photos of Princess Margaret. The plan goes awry. When agents spring their trap, they get the wrong van and the crooks get away with the loot, and the pictures of Princess Margaret. The thieves discover they've been set up and they are forced to use a variety of incriminating photos to blackmail the government into letting them go. The royal sex photos belonged to Michael X (Daniel Mays) a Black Power celebrity who is also a pimp and drug dealer. He has been using the photos as a “get out of jail free card.” During the bank robbery, the thieves find other photos incriminating members of parliament and a document incriminating corrupt police officers. The document is a ledger belonging to a vicious crook named Lew Vogel (David Suchet). It details which police officers he paid off.
The bank robbers are in possession of documents and photos which give them a lot of political leverage, but they are being hunted by Vogel, by the Secret Service and by police. The bank robbers are being picked off one by one. The question is, will they survive long enough to use the power they have and will they be able to keep the money? In addition to all of this, there is a related story of an undercover agent spying on Michael X. Terry Leather is also enduring a big strain on his marriage because of the robbery. This is a very busy plot, but it all fits together. It is a very good script and a good job of directing by Roger Donaldson (“Thirteen Days”). The acting is also top notch. The tension builds to a very high level and sustains that level for a long time. It is like being in a high stakes poker game. This film rates an A.
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