johnlink ranks THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)
For my money, the remake of THE ITALIAN JOB, from 2003, is one of the most entertaining films of the 21st century. I’m a sucker for heist movies, and I love a good ensemble. The tone of that film is just a perfect mix of humor and intensity. While it certainly wasn’t an Oscar nominee or anything, it was just pure unhinged fun. I’ve always wanted to see the original and now I can say that I have!
I watched THE ITALIAN JOB (1969) on 1.30.13. It was my first viewing of the film.
Michael Caine is Charlie Croker. He’s a lifetime criminal getting fresh out of jail. He learns of a complex job which requires meticulous planning and some technological know-how. He puts together a large team to take down an armored car.
Sounds very serious. In practice, however, this is a comedic romp through the life of a guy never quite in control of the situation. Charlie sleeps with multiple women at once several times. He gets himself in with a boss (Noel Coward) who will fund the high cost of the job, but the boss first has Charlie beaten up for being overzealous. The plan seems fairly perfect, but he barely had a hand in the design; it was just given to him. Charlie is a bit on the edge of failure all the time, and the pushing of those edges is when this move works best.
It is also, strangely, a bit unfocused and disjointed. A big deal is made of needing the leading computer expert to help with the job, so they get Professor Peach (the immortal Benny Hill). Except, the computer piece they need is already provided, and all the expert has to do is put it into place, and it is Charlie who tells him where it will go. The logic just isn’t there. Similarly, a bicycle is used to shut down an entire power grid. A chase is lead up onto a rooftop track only to come back down. There was no logic for the chase, but it sure looked cool.
The team Charlie builds is mostly faceless. We get to know a couple of them a little bit, but this is not a movie about “building the team”. The team ends up being roughly twenty people, so they don’t all get to be known all that well.
In comparing the two films, I would say the remake is a nice balance of substance and style. The original is pure style. Often that style works, and quite often that style is very funny. The original also has Michael Caine going for it. He sounds exactly as he does now, but looks 43 years younger. He plays a sort of criminal James Bond, right down to the Aston Martin and the pretty girls whom he discards.
This original ITALIAN JOB has some wonderful moments, to be sure. There are truly funny lines and the final chase sure does look awesome, especially the run through the underground tunnel.The cinematography is nice, and some of the first-person driving sequences, shot in an Italian landscape, are just breathtaking to let unfold.
The remake borrowed the idea of using Minis, the heist of the armored car, and the inclusion of a dangerous force which tries to stop them (in the original, that force is the Italian mafia, who strangely disappear at the film’s climax). But the original film and the remake are two entirely different films in tone, in scope, and in execution. The remake is the well-dressed younger brother to the original’s eccentric and wandering older chap.
The ending was as surprising and sudden as any I can remember of this genre. I’m not sure I liked it, and it set the stage for a sequel which never happened, but you can’t argue that it was unique.
I’m glad I saw this. It’s one of the rare cases where I much prefer the remake to the original, but this first ITALIAN JOB still deserves to be seen.
FILM: 5; MOVIE: 7; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 4
FINAL SCORE: 5.5