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“Hang on a minute lads. I got a great idea!” Apparently that idea was to keep the end of the first film open and to not make a sequel, which looking back on it was a brilliant idea. But with Hollywood going through a few years of remakes, it really was only a matter of time that the film so close to our hearts in the UK, was turned into a big budget action blockbuster and dumbed down for the low-brow audience. The original is and always will be, a classic and I scold all that haven’t seen it (Chris – you reading this?) so it is with trepidation that I watched this film which I went into already thinking of how to say it was a pitiful shadow of the original, worse in ways I could not imagine. This DVD had its work cut out to please me, so it is interesting that it did.

Italian Job (2003), the

The Film
Forget the original for a second. This film has a basic premise which is similar but it is not just a remake of the Michael Caine classic. The all star cast include Marky Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, and lead in the band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch) who stars as Charlie Croker. His crew of thieves are made up of Donald Sutherland (Cold Mountain), Jason Statham (Snatch), Seth Green (Buffy), Mos Def (Ford in the new Hitchhiker’s Guide movie!) and Edward Norton (Fight Club). Sutherland stars as John Bridger, released from prison but still on parole. It used to be him in charge of whatever robberies were planned but now he has handed the baton to Charlie. Charlie has planned this heist to perfection, which is shown in action for us all to see. Using the talents of each member of his team to their best, the team take home the $35 million of gold bullion they were after with Bridger cracking the safe, Steve (Norton) providing access to it, Lyle (Green) using his computer skills to map the building perfectly, Left Ear (Def) – blowing up what is necessary and Handsome Rob (Statham) being a brilliant getaway driver.

The job goes perfectly but with one flaw – someone on the team decides that 35 million divided one way is a lot more and therefore at the earliest opportunity before everyone goes their separate ways they take the lot, killing Bridger in the process. One year later and we see Bridger’s daughter Stella (South African stunner Charlize Theron) breaking into a safe for the police. She is self employed as a safe cracker, for legitimate businesses instead of the less than legitimate people her father did business with. She also drives an original Mini, like an insane rally driver. Croker meets with her after finding the person that stole the gold and killed her father and convinces her to join their team to get the money back.

And so begins the elaborately crafted scheme involving each persons special skills to get the money from the house in Philadelphia to their safe house. The gold is however, planned to be moved to a different location by its current owner, so a scheme is devised involving traffic lights, new shape Mini Coopers with added Va Va Voom and some great driving. Ok it isn’t the chase from the first film, but it is good. And that is how I felt after watching the film. It wasn’t the first film, but it was enjoyable. The negative feelings I had from entering the film were soon washed away with slick action sequences and the entertaining cast. There are some absurd bits with a stand out point of Lyle claming he invented “Napster” throughout the film resulting in him not responding to anything other than “The Napster”. Also his computer is the most intuitive device in history almost predicting what he wants to do and therefore making his desired result, only a few button presses away. But in the great scheme of things this just does not matter. The film is flawed inherently in its ancestry but as a film in its own right, it works. The acting is alright, the direction is alright, the script is alright. I feel there is something missing, but as I said, I am a little biased against this film so it might just be me picking up on something that isn’t there, although I do think Norton might have been miscast in his role. Certainly one of the better Hollywood remakes even with it’s at times, tenuous links to its predecessor. And at least Statham is allowed to talk properly unlike one of his other Hollywood films, The Transporter. There is even a quick shot of Norton watching the original film and at one point, they even have the cheek to reference the original film directly as though that was fiction and this is remake is fact!

Italian Job (2003), the

Video
Paramount have presented this DVD in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Strangely it is not a flawless print. There are a few tiny flecks of dirt present occasionally which is something that I have not seen on a blockbuster for a while now. Other than that the video quality is good. The film seems to have the browns accentuated making the skin tones look a little richer than normal, as well as dark objects looking darker. This almost chocolate presentation gives the film a warm feeling, which also lends itself to a more seventies style colour scheme. This makes the red/white/blue Mini’s stand out even more against the dull blacks and browns of the other congested traffic. No grain with good black levels make this a glossy, smooth with the appearance of being a little soft, but actually being a quality sharp print.

Audio
No glorious DTS for our ears here – merely a mildly above average Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This could have really benefited from the additional whoomp that a DTS track can provide. It is not that the Dolby is a bad track, it just is lacking something in the rear speakers and in the definition. At times this is quite a complicated track with a fast paced score with rumbling bass underneath both vocals and effects and it is this amount of action going on that means that some of the sounds are slightly smoothed out leaving the overall impression of an uninspiring soundtrack. I would expect more than this from a film of this calibre.

Italian Job (2003), the

Extras
No audio commentary here which is a shame. A cast commentary could have been entertaining, and a directors commentary informative. Instead we are presented with five featurettes, Deleted Scenes and a trailer. First up is an eighteen minute feature entitled Pedal to the Metal: The Making of the Italian Job. The first thing we find out, is that director F.Gary Gray had not even seen the original until the script for the remake was in his lap. This is the same for Mark Wahlberg. It is intermingled with clips from both films and interviews with both cast and crew as people talk about this film in reference to the first. The director is given a lot of praise from the cast and for someone so young, he deserves a lot. It’s a bit of a PR feature however not as much as what we have seen on some DVDs. From that I mean it isn’t just a long trailer for the film – the interviews with the cast are interesting, especially with the charismatic Donald Sutherland.

Next up is Putting the Words on the Page for the Italian Job which opens with an interview with Donna and Wayne Powers who were the Screenwriters for the film. Again, we have two people who have not seen the original. I knew this film was not big in the States, but I would have expected some people to have seen it. Apparently it took nearly two years to create the screen play after its many drafts. That is a long time indeed to keep one project going. This short feature has a running time of six minutes.

The Italian Job – Driving School is what it sounds like – the actors had to learn how to properly control the cars over a three week period. This sort six minute feature is quite interesting and it amused me to hear that Wahlberg is “very confident behind the wheel” as he used to drive a tow truck in heavy Boston traffic, however he doesn’t like a “stick shift” as it means he ends up jerking and bouncing a lot. Me thinks someone needs a lesson in clutch control. Automatics – pah, that’s not driving! The driving looked fun and Charlize is not amused that it appears that Statham is the instructors favourite. She does however perform a reverse 180 in the film – which is excellent. It is nice to see the actors earning their money.

Following on from that, we have The Mighty Minis of the Italian Job. This (again) short six minute feature gives us some insight into the cars of the film, with the yanks not really knowing much about them (and with Theron never having been in either the old or new Mini before this film). In fact only Statham has anything mildly technical to say about them when he mentions the brake horse power of the cars, and that they are “quite fast”. There was a 24 hour body shop which was continually fixing the 32 cars used for the film after repeated crashes. It amazed me that so many were used for filming. Three of the cars were even turned into electric cars for the film. This feature is over far too quickly and was enjoyed immensely.

Italian Job (2003), the

High Octane: Stunts from the Italian Job is as you might guess, a feature about the stunts in the film. It is a testament to the film that so many of the stunts were real, instead of just computer generating the chases. They have contributed to sinking Venice by actually going there to film boat chases and being allowed to break the strict speed laws, generating large waves which are the cause of Venice’s problems. I hope they paid a lot of money into whatever restoration fund Venice has. Statham actually drove the boat, which is impressive since he only had one days training as he explains how different it is to driving a car, and how difficult it is to navigate at speed through the narrow canals. The feature then moves onto the truck drop, in which a truck is dropped through a road and then onto the helicopter stunts. The pilot is incredible, to fly in such an enclosed space is hard to believe.

That is the end of the features. There are now six deleted scenes - Restaurant, Golf Course, Staples Center, Stella Escapes Police, Left Ear stuck in Traffic and Left Ear breaks a Window. They are presented roughly with low quality video and it is a mix of scenes that should have been left out (Resturant) and ones that are neither here nor there (Staples Center). However I would assume a lot were cut as they feature Left Ear driving instead of Handsome Rob. Following on from this there is a theatrical trailer presented in an incorrect aspect ratio which manages to give away a lot of the story which I have tried to keep from you. Whoever made that does not assume the audience have any intelligence at all.

Overall
It’s an enjoyable heist flick and is well worth checking out. The disc is presented nicely and while the audio and video are not draw dropping, they are adequate. It is a real shame that commentaries were not included, and a DTS soundtrack would not have gone amiss. Some longer extra features would have also spiced it up a little however we what we are left with is not terrible by any means. So I stand corrected; it was not as bad as I thought it would be at all, just a shame the added material and presentation were a little lack lustre.

Don't forget to check out the (rubbish) Easter Egg, linked to in the panel on the right.


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