The other day, I spent an evening in the best possible way: Rewatching an all-time favorite movie of mine with friends who had never seen it or had no recollection of it. It’s a special kind of joy not only to revisit a movie that is as familiar to you as your childhood home but also to experience it through the fresh eyes of first-time watchers.
The Italian Job came out in 2003 as a remake of a 1969 film which I have never seen. It’s billed as a heist action movie and boasts a truly star-studded cast of thieves including Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Ed Norton, Seth Green and Donald Sutherland. Thinking back on it, I don’t know when or how I came into possession of the DVD but in that time, if you had a DVD of anything, there was a chance you would watch it over and over again because of availability. I must’ve seen the movie about 10-15 times during my teens and was very proud to find that, after at least five years of not seeing it, I could still say along some of the lines and knew even the most minuscule details, like the heritage of some subplot supporting characters with about three minutes screen time.
This post will contain very mild spoilers – come on, the film is 17 years old.
The film starts off with the namesake Italian job, an incredibly well planned and executed heist in the canals of Venice, Italy. It involves blowing up things, cracking a gigantic safe, divers and a high-speed boat chase diversion. Truly one of the most spectacular prologues in cinematic history, in my opinion. The band of thieves – all of the guys mentioned – walk away with double digit earnings in cold hard gold and all is well, until Ed Norton and his suspiciously sleazy mustache double cross the others, fatally shooting their leader Donald Sutherland in the process.
This is where the main plot starts, as Donald’s protégé and second in command Mark Wahlberg vows to destroy the traitor, finds him living all of their personal dreams in LA and gets the band back together for his revenge. Any good team needs one – yes one and no more according to the early 2000s – pretty lady who is admittedly somewhat badass and also very good at a specific thing. In this case we have Charlize Theron as Donald Sutherland’s daughter, who is not only motivated by the death of her father but also a professional safe cracker for national law enforcement.
A plan is hatched, locations are scouted and preparations made. The most important part of which is one of the most impressive product placements in movies I can think of: Three beautiful MINI cars, maneuverable and small enough to drive inside the mansion, strong enough to carry an actual ton of gold and fast enough for a quick getaway. And did I mention beautiful? MINIs in my head are pretty much exclusively young rich girl cars but those three chasing around in unison – one red, one white and one blue, all with racing stripes – are a sight to behold and scream modern class and speedy agility. I truly wonder how much this placement cost MIN. Anyhow, even though the movie wasn’t the most successful when it was first released, MINI-owner BMW reported a 22% increase of MINI sales that year.
Preparations done, the crew uses their various talents – computer hacking to explosives to good looks and irresistible charm – to go about getting their gold back. Not without a few hick-ups and witty one liners of course. The very creative plan leads them on a high speed chase through LA – one that is actually something other than just racing around on a highway, which I appreciate. I personally love a good car chase – I am also a big Fast & Furious fan – and still find the heist to be very entertaining on the fifteenth run.
Of course, the movie ends with some kind of recap of where they are now and very unsurprisingly but also very unnecessarily, Mark Wahlberg gets the girl. I just mention it because it is so very badly done and wasn’t needed for anything.
Anyhow, the movie has some very badly done CGI and effects but also some very good ones and it is still super entertaining after 17 years and 15 times – just the technological aspect hasn’t aged particularly well because they never do. Some of the more sexist tropes shouldn’t be a thing, but at least they are used under the veil of revenge and the setting is apologetical.
The Italian Job is a feel good action movie and I it is where I learned the true meaning of feeling fine (fucked up, insecure, neurotic & emotional) that I think of to this day as well as the more mysterious one liner “ I trust everyone, it’s the devil inside them I don’t trust.”
The Italian Job is available on Netflix and if you seriously haven’t heard of or seen the movie, watch the trailer here.