The Italian Job (2003)

"Weak"

The Italian Job (2003) Review


Because press junkets are repetitive by nature, it's no surprise when an actor spouts off a silly sound bite or two in an effort to fend off extreme levels of boredom. Knowing this in advance helps us comprehend recent comments made by "Marky" Mark Wahlberg regarding his new picture, The Italian Job.

In a clip published online, Wahlberg calls the heist flick his best work yet. Granted, he may have just watched last year's bomb, The Truth About Charlie, but in no way does Job surpass the likes of Boogie Nights or Three Kings. Very few films do.

Wahlberg doesn't stop there, though, insisting Job has "the best stunt sequences and action sequences I've ever seen."

Whoa. Hold on. Instead of wasting his time on junkets, Wahlberg needs to register for Netflix and add Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Matrix, and Face/Off to his wish list. I'm not saying he's lying. The stunts he witnessed in Job could be the best he's ever seen. I'm just saying he needs to get out and see more action films.

Truthfully, the bland Job (a loose remake of a 1969 film) has only one thing going for it, and that's a killer heist staged in gridlocked Los Angeles traffic. The boost is orchestrated by dashing criminal mastermind Charlie Croker (Wahlberg) who, along with his crew, is attempting to swipe back a fortune that was stolen from them by their traitorous colleague, Steve (Edward Norton).

The fortune -- $35 million in gold bars -- was lifted by Charlie, Steve, explosives expert Left Ear (Mos Def), computer guru Lyle (Seth Green), safecracker John (Donald Sutherland) and wheel man Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) from a secure Venice location. Not content with his meager cut, Steve takes all the loot, severing his ties to Charlie in a seemingly fatal fashion.

Talk about gridlocked. The clichés pile up here before the stage is fully set. From the classic double cross to the teammates left for dead, Job offers little we haven't seen before. "You have no imagination," Charlie repeatedly lectures to Steve, though he might as well be talking to director F. Gary Gray and the team of screenwriters. The film builds slowly towards the final-act L.A. heist, which follows the same basic technique Charlie and his crew used in Venice and is not nearly as impressive the second time around. Plus, you know there's trouble anytime a car - even one as unique as the pint-sized Mini - is considered a main character.

Instead of intriguing plot twists, Job overdoses on visual stimulants that provide a respite for the brain. Charlie's gang plays with cool gadgets, works with a behemoth named Skinny Pete and ogles over substitute safecracker Stella (Charlize Theron), who's hotter than the pavement of Hades in the middle of August.

Then there's Norton, who's guilty of sleepwalking, yet again. Job is another nail in the coffin that was custom-built to hold the once gifted actor's dying career. After a meteoric start marked by extraordinary performances, Norton can't stop choosing disinteresting roles. His career has become one major disappointment after another.

Despite all its faults, Job shouldn't be handed a pink slip. Green and Mos Def provide sporadic laughs, and Charlie's crew, in general, enjoys a casual chemistry. The production is drenched in an artificial cool that fits once the action shifts to La-La Land. But the dialogue's a bit too hollow to truly be hip, even when it's backed by a tin-can quality jazz soundtrack.

The feelings of betrayal and the desire for vengeance that are so crucial to Job may be expressed by the cast members, but they're never felt by the audience. Without them, the film feels more like an exercise. Or as the title suggests, a job.

A handful of deleted scenes on the DVD are barely worth a look; the rest of the extra material doesn't amount to much more than Mini advertising.

Just workin'.



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