Italian Job review

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Right, time to face facts. Sir Michael Caine's swingin' '60s romp The Italian Job really isn't as good as people say it is. Or wish it was. Great fun, yes. Great film, no. Not that it really matters, anyway - F Gary Gray's take on the iconic caper is more reimagining than remake. Similarities start with the title and end with a trio of cheeky Minis. As for that titular job... It's done and dusted in the first 20 minutes.

A brilliant heist it is too, a super-devious concoction of soft stepping, loud bangs, speedy boats and snorkels that sees master-crim John Bridger's (Donald Sutherland) thievery team five-fingering $35 million in gold bars from a Venetian safehouse. But - - this being Bridger's `one last job' - - they're soon sent skidding off the road to riches by a murderous double-cross. With the gold gone, the surviving heisters head for Los Angeles to hatch a scheme that'll snatch back their loot and exact revenge.

So who exactly are these guys? Leading them out is Charlie (Mark Wahlberg), the man with the plan. Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) is the wheelman, a stubbly Londoner who can sweet-talk the smalls off any lady he pleases. There's Lyle (Seth Green), a techie whizz-kid who swears he invented Napster. We've got Left-Ear (Mos Def), the demolition pro with dodgy hearing. Then there's Steve Frezelli (Edward Norton), weasly 'tache and whiney voice camouflaging a capable brain. Later, the gang are joined by Bridger's daughter Stella (Charlize Theron), a strong-willed, slinky safecracker who practises popping locks in her underwear.

With a winning streak of silliness painted down the sides, this all-star action-mobile motors forward like a nifty attempt to cut-and-shut The Fast And The Furious with Ocean's Eleven. Norton's well-publicised contempt for the whole affair (he was contractually obliged to do the movie and was thoroughly pissed off about it) translates as smirking malice on-screen, while dinky funny-boy Green has a riot ripping the Mockney out of Statham's schtick and ad-libbing for kicks. It doesn't always work out, mind. In-car accessories Theron and Wahlberg keep puncturing the pace by playing serious - and we haven't even mentioned where a gang of Mobsters fit in...

But if Wahlberg's less able than Caine, it's not like he's the real star of the show. Colour-coded Minis might still be impractical covert getaway wagons but, goddamn it, they've got cool. And when the movie accelerates into the zinging final heist, Gray sure gets his money's worth. Pinging in and out of gridlocked LA traffic, rattling down stairways, racing through the subway system - now that's product placement.

To tell the truth, there is one more thing this Italian Job shares with the original: it's fun but no work of genius. But hell, you want plausibility? Go watch a Ken Loach film. You want tyre-squealing fun? Take this for a spin.

It never quite manages to find top gear, but this is enjoyable smash-and-grab entertainment all the same. A flimsy joyride that's gone in 60 seconds - but the Job's a good 'un.

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