All that glitters …
‘Cute’ script and thin acting leave Italian Job empty gold heist film
While The Italian Job has a good deal of flash and zip in its chase sequences, it’s an action thriller in only the most superficial sense. And, worse yet, as a heist/caper movie in the honor-among-thieves vein, it is frivolous and callow to the point of moral bankruptcy. It’s fun, in a speed-freak sort of way. But very little of it stays with you, apart from a faintly nauseous aftertaste.
Director F. Gary Gray and his company of stunt persons are very good at working up that synthetic adrenalin rush that works much better in TV commercials and music videos than it does in a feature-length tale on the big screen. But Gray gets only thin and mechanical performances out of an attractive-looking cast (Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham, etc.). And it helps not at all that the script by Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, revamped from the 1969 film of the same name, is so intent on making its band of thieves seem cute, charming and cool that it completely trivializes the morsels of dramatic substance it plants with a half-dozen or so characters.
Donald Sutherland brings a certain gravity to the early portions of the film, despite a stock role (the old thief making one last big score) and some tritely sentimental dialogue. But once he leaves the picture, The Italian Job is in the hands of too many tyros acting something less than their age. And the youngest of them all—Seth Green, as an impishly omnipotent computer nerd—is at the heart of the film’s giddy, mindless fascination with technology in general and the gadgets of high-tech crime in particular.
For all of its lip-service to honor and integrity, too much of the film comes off as sophomorically cynical. Its cheerfully complacent sense of high-tech crime as just another form of free enterprise makes it a film emblematic of its own times, but, unfortunately, in a way that is merely symptomatic.