The general reaction to "remakes of classics" is 'Oh yuck. The first one was so great. Everyone loves it. Why even bother doing a remake?,' while very few people stop to realize that they've just answered their own question! The remakes are green-lighted with such frequency...because they already have a built-in audience! You'd think the best one could hope for is just a remake that doesn't...suck.But actually the best by-product of the Remake Machine is this: I'd never seen the original Italian Job. And when I learned that a modern remake was underway, that got me very interested in finally seeing the old Michael Caine classic. And sure, the Mark Wahlberg revisit is certainly a fine little piece of entertainment. But, more importantly, its production is what forced me to finally check out the original...and it's just as great a movie as I'd heard all these many years.
Peter Collinson's The Italian Job is a hugely popular movie, to this day, in Merry Olde England. Over here in the States it seems to be a well-regarded and respected old caper comedy, but across the pond...it's like Shawshank or something. It's a National Treasure.
The Italian Job is a Heist Flick. And with that label comes the asterisk: one of the first, one of the finest, and easily one of the most imitated Heist Flicks in modern movie history. The movie just oozes colorful characters and witty exchanges, slick chases and memorable moments, clever surprises and one helluva finalé.
The plot's not about much more than a collection of crafty criminals who set out to steal a lot of gold from under the nose of the Italian Mafia. The set-up involves prison breaks, clever distractions, a speedy boat and a fleet of those now-famous Mini-Coopers. And as far as that one Mini-Cooper chase that everyone crows about? Yep, it ranks among the finest car chases ever, right up there with The French Connection, Bullitt and The Blues Brothers.
Though ably supported by folks like Noel Coward and Benny Hill (and his least obnoxious), the youthful Michael Caine both owns and commands The Italian Job. Caine's Charlie Croker an effortlessly affable scoundrel, the perfectly charming anchor for such a kinetic little caper.
There's a good reason that The Italian Job is still so well-regarded even after 25 years. It's that sort of smoothly entertaining and slyly intelligent crowd-pleasing spectacle that will never go out of style.The remake is a dandy little confection in its own right, but that's not the one that people will most remember another 25 years down the road.