Bro­ken bank

THE BANK JOB Di­rected by Roger Donaldson. Star­ring Ja­son Statham, Saf­fron Bur­rows, David Suchet, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner 15A cert,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - New Dvds | Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

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!

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