"Don't compare it to the original and I bet you have a pretty good time."
I'm a cynical know-it-all of a movie fan, though I love to be proven wrong. When this one started coming down the pike, my gullet started to rise; a lazy-looking remake of a classy old classic sprung from the generally tiresome high-concept factory that is Paramount Pictures. Plus there was all this hoopla about how Edward Norton had to be threatened with a lawsuit before he'd appear in the film. In other words, all signs pointed to crap. Call it the beauty of lowered expectations, but the simple truth is this: Fun Flick!Three or four suitably slick and loud action sequences, an enjoyably colorful array of directorial touches, just enough actual drama to make you care what's going on, healthy doses of well-delivered humor, and a roster of likeable character actors... OK, so maybe it doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the 1969 Michael Caine film - but there's a wide array of quality in between "pretty good" and "adored classic".
If you've seen any of Paramount's annoyingly spoiler-happy trailers, you already know the score here: A crew of high-tech burglars are betrayed and left for dead by a duplicitious bastard; a year later the gang reunites for some revenge. Heck, even if the movie were an original screenplay, c'mon - we've seen the Double Cross Heist flick a thousand times before. (I think I've seen 8 or so in the last few years!)
The colorful cast has two potholes: lead Mark Wahlberg never once suggests the urbane slickster that the screenplay clearly needs him to be - and the clearly disinterested Edward Norton is absolutely missing that rascally little spark that's notable in nearly all of his performances. Everyone else with a speaking part deserves some praise. Charlize Theron may never need to memorize an Oscar Acceptance speech, but she acquits her adorable self suitably well here - though I find it a bit difficult to buy the waify little bunny as a world-renowned Vault Technician.
I digress; Popcorn Movies rule is in effect. As the rest of the crew, we have Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def and (for an abbreviated visit) Donald Sutherland. Each are required to bring some color and humor to their sidekick roles; each actor steals scenes whole from the two leads.
Perhaps most impressive about The Italian Job is seeing how far director F. Gary Gray has come. Yes, his debut Friday is a great little comedy - but who knew the guy had this knack for expansive visuals? There are a few sequences in the film (one atop a dam, the other a lengthy chase) where I felt like I was watching John McTiernan back when he knew what he was doing.The flashy bits are a lot of fun, the necessary 'plot stuff' is more than intriguing enough, and the flick as a whole moves quickly enough that it makes the rough spots tough to linger upon. As high-end escapist fare, you could find a worse job.