Based on a true story, "The Bank Job" is not your average heist film. For one thing, it's awfully subdued for a generation weaned on the glitz and glamour of the George Clooney-fronted "Ocean's Eleven" franchise. Instead, this has its roots in the English crime genre of the Seventies " mannered, deliberate and raw.
Directed by Roger Donaldson ("Species," "The Recruit"), the movie recounts a 1971 bank robbery on Great Britain's Baker Street, in which a group of criminal less-than-masterminds dug underneath a chicken restaurant and into a vault full of cash. Nobody did time for the crime, and this fictionalized version suggests that it had to do with comprising photos of the British royalty tucked away in one of the safety deposit boxes.
Jason Statham, star of the "Transporter" flicks, gains credibility in this critically acclaimed film as the leader of the thieves. He's recruited into the job by an old flame, played by the lovely Saffron Burrows ("Deep Blue Sea"). There are crosses and double-crosses, and the movie moves so fast, it may take two viewings to keep all the maneuvers straight.
It would be easy to overpraise "The Bank Job," as it's not likely to be remembered during awards season, but it is a smart thriller where most of the action comes in fast dialogue, and not in chases or explosions. An initially lighthearted tone turns deadly serious, which may disarm more casual viewers, while others will appreciate its bravery in not sugarcoating things.