November 7, 2019
The Bank Job (2008)
Grade: 75/100

Director: Roger Donaldson
Stars: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore

What it's about. Loosely based on a true story, the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery in London. Michael X (Peter De Jersey) is an uppity black gangster who can't be prosecuted because he has dirt on Princess Margaret. The incriminating photos are stashed in a safe deposit box, and because it is a movie, the government decides to have bank robbers break in and hopefully steal everything including the naughty royal's photos. These will somehow be turned over to the government even though the robbers know nothing about them with one exception.

Anyway, the go-between smug government agent Richard Lintern and the robbers is lovely brunette Saffron Burrows. Her checkered past includes knowing Jason Statham, a burdened car salesman with loyal wife Keeley Hawes and two predictably adorable young daughters. She tips off Statham to the bank job, and he brings in his best buds Michael Jibson, Daniel Mays, and Stephen Campbell Moore, along with suave grifter James Faulkner and drilling expert Alki David.

The job goes well despite a tip-off to the police. But the stolen items compromise porn kingpin David Suchet, who sends his goons after the robbers.

How others will see it. A commercial hit, The Bank Job garnered surprisingly few festival nods, chiefly a Saturn Award nomination for Best Internation Film.

Today at, though, the movie has a high 168K user votes, and a high user rating of 7.2 out of 10, which is consistent across all demographics. It continued the success of veteran director Roger Donaldson, who had sold out with Species and Cocktail but made a reputation comeback with The World's Fastest Indian. It didn't hurt the career of Jason Statham, who had previously played a bank robber as the lead in the ridiculously successful though overrated Snatch.

Regarding the user reviews, no one seems concerned that the movie's only major black character is a gangster and murderer. Few question the accuracy of the depiction of the Baker Street caper. Some complain that the film lacks action in its early scenes. But most viewers recognize a good British bank robbery movie when they see one.

How I felt about it. The first order of business is to separate fact from fiction. There was indeed a 1971 Bank Street robbery that looted the safe deposit boxes of the Baker Street branch of Lloyds. It did indeed tunnel beneath a chicken restaurant. It is also true that the lookout's walkie talkie conversation was overheard by a ham radio operator, who recorded it and contacted the police.

In real life, four bank robbers were soon arrested. They were convicted and imprisoned for years. Their names and personas differ from their fictional cinematic counterparts. It is true, though, that apparently other robbers took part, and escaped prosecution, including a woman.

Michael X was mostly accurately portrayed, including his notorious murder of Gale Benson, the daughter of a Parliament member. Hakim Jamal, the writer relative of Michael X, was also a real person.

There is no evidence aside from rumors that Princess Margaret was illicitly photographed during an orgy in Jamaica. It is morally wrong for the present film to strongly imply that she was. But, it doesn't hurt the film much. It is also silly to involve Lord Mountbatten in this preposterous plot.

Characters and subplots involving porn king Lew Vogel and high-ranking British officials at a swank brothel are fictional. The murders of three of the bank robbers are also fictional. There was no hidden tunnel with the skeletons of centuries-old plague victims.

At best, it can only be said that the film is based on a true story, but then that is how most such films are made. They would be less interesting and more depressing, otherwise.

We can forgive the transgressions from real events for the sake of entertainment. A more significant problem is the ending, which allows our antihero lead to live happily ever after on a tropical island with lots of money, his beautiful wife, adorable young daughters, and three best buds. He even gets to beat up one villain, and send him and others to prison.

But that's not even enough. He gets to smile while the film's hottie and classy brunette tells him he's the one she always wanted, as he nobly dismisses her in favor of his long suffering wife. This is when we know it's a movie.

Still, despite the film's bogus ending, the rest of it is really good. The characters are interesting and likable, the suspense is palpable, the script is solid, and the direction is tight. It's a fine job overall, even if the ending is taken out of the Steve Miller Band's "Take the Money and Run."