U.S. Release Date: May 30, 2003
Distributor: Paramount
Director: F. Gary Gray
Producer: Tim Bevan (executive producer), Donald De Line, Eric Fellner (executive producer)
Composer: John Powell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def, Donald Sutherland
Running Time: 1 hour and 51 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence and some language)

A Caper Movie Italian Style
by C.A. Wolski

Though The Italian Job fields an impressive A-list cast, the real star of the picture is the script by Donna and Wayne Powers. After the rather plodding Matrix Reloaded, it's nice to see a deft, funny and surprisingly brainy summer action flick. It's a remake of a 1968 caper film of the same name, but it feels as fresh as if it was just dreamed up by the Powers team over a quiet dinner of pasta and red wine.

The movie opens with the heist of $35 million in gold bars from a Venetian mansion (hence the title). It is a brilliant opening sequence with little exposition, lots of action and light banter. After the successful job is finished, the crew is double crossed by one of their own—Steve (Edward Norton)—who executes father figure John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and leaves Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), Lyle (Seth Green), Left Ear (Mos Def) and Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) for dead. A year later, the crew reassembles to recover the gold and exact revenge on Steve, recruiting Bridger's daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) who, like her father, is an expert safecracker.

The Italian Job: is essentially light action fare with death defying stunts (mainly with Mini Coopers), bantering dialogue and ingenious plot twists. But everything fits together beautifully, there are no groan inspiring stunts or over the top dialogue. Norton is particularly creepy here—although hamming it up just a little—and when he discovers that his old comrades are plotting against him, it actually elicited gasps from the audience. He's the obvious odd man out in this sunny actioner. He has to be the bad guy. He's just not cool enough or imaginative enough to be anything else.

But like all caper pictures there is little doubt that the good guys will succeed and the bad guy will get his just deserts. The fun is in the getting there, but this thrilling ride Mini Cooper ride is not just mindless action. We see the crew planning, training, working out the heist. This is a thinking person's action thriller compared to the dreck that audiences had to endure back in the slow days of January and February.

The acting is good, and the characters' backstories—which are dispensed with in a spirited three-minute montage—are a real hoot. The only real problem is Wahlberg. He's a good actor, but like in last year's Truth About Charlie, he lacks charisma and sort of falls flat as a romantic lead. He's very good in the action sequences, but he has absolutely no chemistry with Theron, who has never been better—beautiful, brainy, tough. But it does not completely derail the proceedings, and the romance is little more than a footnote to the caper.

Residents of Los Angeles will find the movie particularly enjoyable as the city's notoriously congested streets and freeways (particularly around Hollywood) become the primary obstacle the crew has to overcome.

If you're looking for a good action flick on a slow Sunday afternoon, you couldn't do any better than The Italian Job.

16 Blocks
Die Hard with Whine and Laughter
Ocean's Twelve
Cheaper by the Dozen
The Bourne Ultimatum
Third Bourne Satisfies
Assassination Action Hampered by Slow-Moving Target
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Married Assassins Strictly a Current Affair
Ocean's Thirteen
Vegas Piffle Entertains