Roger Donaldson's sharp, suspenseful, and very human crime drama, based on, apparently, a true story of what some minor criminals find in the safety deposit boxes in a small bank, delivers what is critical for a heist movie to succeed:
1. Everyone is a real, flesh and scars human 2. Violence is usually threatened and almost never graphic 3. Decency and degeneracy can walk hand in hand 4. If the good guys win, it's going to be at a terrible cost
I just saw another Donaldson picture a few months ago, The November Man. Remember how I appreciated the line delivered by Pierce Brosnan to his protégé, something like, "You can either be a human or a taker of human life; you can't be both." The November Man was a more standardized action flick, but the moral choice Brosnan's trainee has to make sends the quality of the movie up 1/2 dozen notches right away.
In The Bank Job, Donaldson is able to convey the vulnerability felt by many of the primary and secondary characters. There's real fear on the faces of the guys at MI-5 (or is it MI-6; I never know). Jason Statham (who turns in a darn-good performance here) is torn between benefiting his family or destroying it. I don't know all the other actors, but everyone of them, as I said before, is so real, so smart, craven and foolish.
The heart and soul of The Bank Job is in its ability to convince the audience that what they are seeing is plausible, maybe even real. When an up-and-coming spook spots a young woman he sent on an undercover mission in the Caribbean, covered in a shallow grave, he doesn't act tough. He forces back his emotions, and then orders the local authorities to burn the bad guy's house to the ground. If this guy can hang on to his career, he's going to be a holy terror in the British Intelligence community.
Except for the usual problem of deciphering Statham's thickened and mumbling accent, and the less-than-a-clear-mix musical soundtrack for 1971, I found nothing to complain about here.
If you find The Bank Job at your library, in a bin at Wal-Mart, or on Netflix, I would suggest you drop everything for the evening to watch a fine piece of restrained film-making. One of the message boarders commented that, if this had been made in the US, what made it so good would have died almost instantly.