“The Bank Job” Cast:
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Directed by Michael Radford
Based loosely on the 1971 “Walkie-Talkie Robbery” which held the interest of London’s newspapers until a “D Notice” gag order was put on the story by the government, “The Bank Job” stars Jason Statham as Terry Leather, a car dealer with a seedy reputation given a tip by his model ex-girlfriend Martine (Saffron Burrows) that would make it easy for them to rob a prestigious bank. While Terry and his friends are in it for the big money, Martine has been enlisted by the government to get into the bank’s safe deposit boxes to retrieve compromising pictures of Princess Margaret stored there by a two-bit hood named Michael X, who has been using the pictures as a blackmail to evade the law. Terry and his gang aren’t aware of this, nor do they realize that many of London’s shadiest individuals have used the bank’s safe deposit boxes to store their own skeletons.
Despite being set in London ten years earlier, “Flawless” is a very different film from “Bank Job” as well as a different film from what we’ve seen from Michael Radford, especially following his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Set in the world of British diamond trading, as partially seen in “Blood Diamond,” the aptly-titled “Flawless” revolves around Demi Moore’s Laura Quinn, one of the few women working at the London Diamond Corporation, who learns that she’s been set-up for a fall by her sexist boss. Out of frustration, she agrees to help the firm’s janitor Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine) with his plan to steal a small amount of diamonds “which will never be missed.”
As is the case with most heist films–neither of these being an exception–the planning phase and how those plans are executed is half the fun with suitable oversights thrown in to add tension, though “Flawless” add a great little twist that takes what seems like a relatively small job turn into an impressive (though not entirely credible) achievement by the elderly janitor. Terry Leather’s robbery seems more by-the-books, but the fun comes from the true aspects of the story where the real-life robbers communicated via walkie-talkies, which gave them away when a nearby Ham radio operator picked up their chatter. (Of course, no one knew which bank was being robbed at the time.)
“The Bank Job” has many fun moments like that during the preparation for the big job, but once they’ve succeeded, the film starts to go downhill, as it resorts to action movie cliches with Statham taking on all-comers and setting various parties against each other, always coming out unscathed. There are far too many characters for anyone to keep track of without a scorecard, all of them with a reason to keep the contents of the bank’s safe deposit a secret, and by the second half, the film has piled on so many subplots, secondary characters and melodramatic overacting that it’s hard to believe that any of it is based on reality, since so much seems fictionalized based on speculation and guesswork based on the little that was revealed about the case.
The beauty of “Flawless” is its simplicity with such a small cast of characters, and the fact that it’s as much about their individual journeys as people, while also giving an interesting inside look at the diamond industry. Moore and Caine are both at the top of their game in the many talking scenes due to the riveting dialogue and character dynamics that makes it hard to fathom that they last appeared together in “Blame It On Rio” nearly 24 years ago. Lambert Wilson is equally good as the police detective assigned to the case of the missing diamonds.
Despite the presence of strong supporting actors like Daniel Mays (“Atonement”) and Stephen Campbell Moore (“The History Boys”), so much is put on Statham and Burrows to carry this, and while Terry is not too far removed from past Statham roleshe does a good job playing a family manDonaldson, the director behind “The Recruit” and “Species,” doesn’t have a reputation for getting strong performances out of his actors, which ultimately hurts the credibility of the storytelling. Instead, the latter half of the film involves a lot of overly melodramatic performances more appropriate to a soap opera than a true crime drama.
Both films are very British, possibly to a fault when it comes to American audiences, but they both do a fine job recreating the period outfits and environment, “The Bank Job” thriving from its cooler rock ‘n’ roll vibe of early ’70s London, while “Flawless” being the London cliché of stiff upper crust Brits that’s been depicted so often in films and British television. The one thing both films have in common is a dramatic scene of when the bank or diamond vault is discovered ransacked and empty by the manager the next day.
“The Bank Job” is filled with lots of sex and excessive violence–subtlety is not the film’s strong suit–while “Flawless” essentially has neither, and while the latter might have benefited from a bit more excitement, the former takes things way too far including a nearly unwatchable torture sequence. It’s made worse by an incessantly overbearing score that tries to build tension when there really isn’t very much, the music being so non-stop that it gives the movie very little room to breathe. The biggest slap in the face in “The Bank Job” is when after sitting through all its ludicrous plot twists, the epilogue scroll ends with the disclaimer that names have been changed “to protect the guilty.” Right, more likely to keep people from Googling the case and finding out the truth about it.
The ending of “Flawless,” essentially returning to a modern-day framing sequence where Laura Quinn is telling the story of the great diamond heist to a young reporter, could have been better since it’s an obvious and overused device, but it’s a far more satisfying experience than “The Bank Job” otherwise, a simply gorgeous film that remains faithful to the times in every respect.
The Bottom Line:
The Bank Job opens nationwide on March 7, while Flawless is playing on HDNet VOD right now and opens in limited release on March 28.