PG-13 for one f-bomb coupled with a lot of light language. There's some murder and sexuality, which I fast-forwarded for the kids. Mind you, the movie kind of glorifies thievery a 'la Oceans Eleven, so I don't know if the messages in this movie are that good. My son kept telling me that gun use was always bad and I couldn't argue with him. I feel like I did something right there, so keep that in mind when people are shooting at each other.
DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray
Nothing like showing your kids a movie that takes place in Italy before we go to Italy that apparently only spends, like, ten minutes in Italy. Yeah. I googled "Great movies that take place in Italy" and I thought that this was the one that would grab my kids' attention. No, it's not like the original and I completely forgot about that. There's no "blowing the bloody doors off" or anything like that. It's ten minutes in Venice and that's it. If we were doing a family holiday in L.A., then this movie would have been appropriate. Do you know how awkward it is to sit down for a family movie only to confess that they can watch something else because this had no purpose.
Now, I had seen this movie before. I saw this movie a whole bunch of times between 2003 and 2006. But now it's 2022 and I remembered maybe a few minutes of it. I remembered Mark Wahlberg and a bunch of Mini Coopers. But I didn't remember how dated this movie would be. (I mean, you only realize that something's dated once it's been removed from its era.) But The Italian Job might be a cautionary tale about making topical jokes. Man, this movie invested really hard in the Napster jokes and didn't let go. I remember laughing my face off when I was in theaters back in the day. But boy, when that first Napster joke showed up, I knew that it was going to get called back far too many times for humor's sake. Then, I had to remove it by twenty years and then I realized that the movie might not be this hilarious piece of cinema that I remembered.
It's odd, because this is a movie that is fundamentally a remake of what some people consider to be a classic. I saw the Michael Caine one. I didn't love it. This was one of those movies that I considered to be a superior remake. But I'm trying to take this film as something that can stand on its own. And the big takeaway is that this movie owes actually more to the Ocean's Eleven remake than anything else. Sure, it has some major actors. Some of those actors weren't really big names before The Italian Job, so that's an extra treat. But a lot of the film is really leaning heavily into archetypes. Now, I have the odd disadvantage of having an emotional memory of this film. I had high expectations of it and I was let down. That's on me. But even more than that, I couldn't even claim that I was solving things before the characters did. After all, I've seen this movie before. Many times. I've seen this movie many times before. Just because I didn't formally remember a lot of it doesn't give me clearance to watch this with completely fresh eyes. But with all of those caveats laid out, did anyone think that Edward Norton's Steve wasn't going to betray them? I mean, that moustache, right? It's so much. I think that Edward Norton's place in a heist film. He's meant to be this mousy sleezebag that gets under your skin immediately.
But let's pretend that I can separate myself from things and watch this as a movie in 2022. As much as it is a heist movie, the protagonists need to be sympathetic thieves. After all, they're bad guys. If you have bad guys as the spearheads of your film, you need to have people kinda / sorta like them, right? That leaves Donald Sutherland's John as a fridged character. It's really weird. John is murdered by Steve so that Steve doesn't have to share $37 million dollars. Okay, that scans. But to pull that off, Steve shows up with another team to rob John and Charlie's squad. Doesn't that mean that Steve has to still share $37 million dollars? Maybe those guys were cool with smaller shares? But really, all this means is that the film is setting up a conflict of protagonist versus his mirror image antagonist. The thing is...Steve's dumb. From moment one, he's kind of showing off the fact that he lacks all imagination. That's actually his primary character trait. The only difference between Charlie and Steve is that Steve is ruthless while Charlie is full of ruth. The story clearly becomes one of brains versus brains and brawn. The film almost keeps nerfing Steve as the film goes on, almost posing him as lucky. There are moments where Steve might be a threat, but it's in the final climax that Steve actually grows some claws.
But as much as these characters are archetypes that thrive on charm and a great bass soundtrack like the photocopy of Ocean's Eleven that it is, I kind of feel bad for Stella's development. Stella is the woman at the sausage party. Dear Lord, Stella and The Italian Job do not pass the Bechdel test even a little bit because there is only one female role in this movie. But Stella starts the film supposedly angry at Charlie for his part in getting her father killed. But her sense of morality and self-esteem really goes down the drain quickly as she volunteers to take Steve out. Part of me gets this. Gray wants to show that Stella is a moral person out of a sense of rebellion with her father, but also wants to get revenge for his death. But I kind of wish that Stella was already working to take Steve down without Charlie's help before she joins his team of thieves. Now, a lot of this is me judging from a place of boredom, but I get the vibe that Stella, despite being a narratively huge character in this story, is always reacting versus being proactive. Sure, she brings in the Mini-Coopers, but she's taking notes from Charlie the entire time. Actually, why is she taking notes from Charlie? Stella is the one who has the greatest to get and lose from this story. Charlie is getting his money and has mud on his face. Stella lost a father and is smarter than all of the other character's combined. She has the internal conflict. But she's always playing second fiddle to the other characters. This story should have Charlize Theron as main billing, but she's a bit player in what should be her own story.
Look, it's not that the movie is bad. I'm really looking at it through an unfair lens. I wanted this to be a movie about Italy and it was a movie about L.A. F. Gary Grey was making this movie for the audiences of 2003. I think he knew that this wasn't going to be some masterpiece that withstood the test of time. He wanted a big box office and I think that he got it. Watching this film from my perspective is an unfair test. It was a fine movie, but I can't help but see an inferior Ocean's Eleven. I mean, it's no Ocean's Twelve, but it also ain't great in its own right.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.