Thursday, February 19, 2009

DVD: The Italian Job (2003)

Director: F Gary Gray
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton
Year made: 2003

Putting prejudice to one side when it comes to a remake of such a culturally iconic film as The Italian Job is not easy. Michael Caine’s 1969 original was not without its flaws, but its status was secured by an enduring charm. No matter how competently F Gary Gray’s
version has been put together, its blandness is its failing...

Standing next to any number of Hollywood action fests this mini adventure ticks all the necessary boxes for decent returns, only to then skip those that ask for a great leading man, characters you care about and scripted spice that makes a film special. In short, The Italian Job is a film blissfully happy in its mediocrity. Then again, film isn’t much about art that much of the time, all too often it is little more than a business that knows what it needs to do to turn a profit. If that means lifting ideas, like a Mini Cooper-led heist for gold bullion with the odd twist and turn here and there, so be it.

Mark Wahlberg is the man in Caine’s driving seat as Charlie Croker. Unfortunately, it’s like swapping Jackie Stewart for David Coulthard, he’s never going to bring home the big one and will probably bore us to death trying, such is the extent of Wahlberg's woeful performance.

The rest of the cast rally around making up for their lead’s lacking, but it is Gary Gray’s directing that saves the day. Should this man get the chance at a great script with better players then he may achieve something above the rest of the blockbuster fodder. His composition of shots lifts The Italian Job’s thrills out of the gutter in an impressively stylistic manner against its tasty soundtrack. This creates the illusion of a much slicker flick than it actually is.

This indifference is reflected in The Italian Job’s disc. No commentary to speak of, just five featurettes, which seem to spend an awful lot of their time defending and fighting against the ‘remake’ label.

In ‘Pedal To The Metal’ everyone’s touchy feelyness about the subject is quite evident. On one hand you have executive producer Tim Bevan categorically saying it’s not a remake, then everyone else saying it’s not exactly a remake, just “inspired by” the original. The rest of the featurette is made up of pretty average cast interviews
featuring their best soundbites.

Surprise surprise, everyone got on like a house on fire and director Gary Gray was great. Leave it to Wahlberg though to hit the biggest cliché out of the park, explaining why he took on the film: “I saw the script [dramatic pause] and just fell in love with it.”

Notable only by his absence from the featurette is Ed Norton, who plays Steve (the bad guy), contractually obliged by the studio to appear in the film. He wasn’t happy about it either.

Everything else is stocking filler; even the stunts featurette managed to send us to sleep. The Italian Job represents the worst kind of garden-variety film: average and proud of it.

Mini mayhem and not in a good way.

Film: 2 stars
Extras: 2 stars

Special features:
• ‘Pedal To The Metal: The Making Of The Italian Job’ featurette (18 mins)
• ‘Putting The Words On The Page For The Italian Job’ featurette (5 mins)
• ‘The Italian Job Driving School’ featurette (6 mins)
• ‘The Mighty Minis Of The Italian Job’ featurette (6 mins)
• ‘High Octane: Stunts From The Italian Job’ featurette (8 mins)
• Six deleted scenes
• Gag reel – Easter egg

If you likes this why not try:
The Italian Job (1969)
Who needs American imitations when you can buy British.

This review first appeared in DVD Review issue #62