THE BANK JOB Directed by Roger Donaldson. Starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, David Suchet, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner 15A cert,
gen release, 111 min
OI, 1970s! Get your knickers on and sod off out of it. We’ve just about had enough of your velvet loons and your big shooters and your vintage jags. Sling your hook, mate!
Life on Mars ended last year, but, fear not, a big-screen retooling of The Sweeney is on the way and, this week, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the men who wrote every single British TV show between 1974 and 1978, dig up some of the flared decade’s ugliest secrets for their latest thriller.
The story they investigate – culled from tabloid hints, insider gossip and bloke-in-the-pub speculation – is certainly a fascinating one. An ancient urban myth suggests that, in the early 1970s, a radio ham stumbled upon a walkie-talkie conversation between villains robbing a bank somewhere in central London. The robbers were never identified.
Clement and La Frenais dare to suggest that the crime might have been connected with a rumoured sting carried out on the royal family by certain angry radicals. The Bank Job argues that photographs of a senior Windsor (unnamed, but clearly Princess Margaret) caught in flagrante were held in a safe deposit box by the blackmailers. Was the bank robbery part of an MI5 plot to recover the incriminating evidence?
Almost certainly not. There, nonetheless, remains great potential for larks in the fantastic scenario. Sadly, Roger Donaldson’s film, though passably gripping, has been let down by its limited actors, its unimaginative set decorators and its drably linear structure.
As the chief gangster, Jason Statham is characteristically inanimate, though he seems inhumanly dynamic when set beside the muttering twig that is Saffron Burrows. The actors struggle to retain credibility while negotiating a London that forces box-fresh 1970s icons – a shiny jag here, a hilariously ersatz Yoko there – together with attitudes and phrases uncommon before the Blair era.
The more those anachronisms add up, the more the picture resembles a retro pop-video made by film students born in the 1990s. Yet neither La Frenais, Clement nor Donaldson will see 60 again. Get out if it, you slags!