Finally able to uncover the secrets surrounding the legendary Baker Street Robbery in London now that the thirty-year gag-order issued by the government to halt the press has been lifted, Flushed Away and Across the Universe screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais based their latest project on the notorious Walkie Talkie Robbery of 1971 with changed names to protect the guilty. Yes, you read that correctly-- the robbers who call one another villains throughout The Bank Job are ironically the least villainous characters of the film after they're unknowingly set up to pull off an audacious robbery by Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), a beautiful model who lived in their neighborhood and broke a number of hearts in the process.
Busted on a drug charge, Martine’s married spy lover (Richard Lintern) enlists her help in securing the negatives and originals of photos depicting a member of the Royal Family in an island orgy with the promise to clear her name. For help, she turns to her hyper-masculine old flame, the former crook who now runs a car dealership to try to support his family, Terry Leather (Jason Statham), who finds himself drawn into the heist to solve his own money problems. Rounding up a gang of oddballs and eccentrics, Terry leads his crew in a complicated plan of renting out the store two doors over from the bank and tunneling into the vault. If this sounds familiar, it should— for those who have seen the classic Italian comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street and its many remakes (Small Time Crooks, Welcome to Collinwood), you’ll remember this plot set-up very well but instead of laughs, it becomes far more intense as they make their way to the safe deposit boxes which holds the incriminating evidence of the Royal Family. And not only is the Royal Family’s dirty laundry hiding away in the vault but as they discover, numerous incriminating photos and evidence that soon have not only the government and local police after the gang but also dangerous members of London’s criminal underworld as well. Although the robbery made headlines for a few days following the estimated theft of five hundred thousand pounds, not to mention the jewels and other contents of the room including the one hundred boxes that people never went to claim (most likely filled with blackmail and filth), and not wanting too much attention to be focused on the thieves since they were thrown to the wolves to secure the princess’s incriminating photos, the whole incident was hushed up and no charges were ever brought to the guilty parties.
After a sluggish and gratuitously kinky first half hour most likely included to help sell the film to its targeted young male demographic, No Way Out and Thirteen Days director Roger Donaldson really hits his stride once the robbery plans are underway and The Bank Job’s homage to British crime films of the 60’s and 70’s is apparent in nearly every frame that follows. An uneven but gripping movie that will definitely play into the audience’s capability for suspension of disbelief since it’s even harder to believe when you realize the events are true and one that’s filled with villainous “heroes” and heroic “villains” who fail to fall into tired movie clichés in the hands of Roger Donaldson and his screenwriting team, The Bank Job is worth the investment.