Jason Statham leads ‘The Bank Job’ on Peacock

Jason Statham in 'The Bank Job,' directed by Roger Donaldson

The Bank Job (2008) may sound like a generic crime vehicle from the title and the casting of genre action star Jason Statham, a stalwart tough guy with stocky presence and limited range, but don’t let that stop you from digging into this British film. Based on (or more accurately inspired by) the real life 1971 “Walkie-Talkie Robbery” where thieves made off with the contents of hundreds of safety deposit boxes, this is a terrific piece of heist filmmaking made with a rough-and-tumble attitude and old-school professionalism.

Statham (an actor well aware of both his strengths and his weakensses) plays a family man with a dodgy past who puts together a colorful crew of small-timers on a moment’s notice for the job a lifetime, or so promises an old flame (Saffron Burrows) with her own agenda. They soon realize that some serious heavyweights had compromising things stashed in those boxes and will do whatever it takes to get them back.

Roger Donaldson is a smart and often tough-minded director who likes to scuff up the smooth surfaces of his scripts and this is a good script for it. The real-life case was an infamous headline-grabber that suddenly disappeared from the media, thanks to a government gag order, and the script by old hands Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais is based more on rumor and supposition than fact. It posits a highly entertaining hypothesis involving a royal scandal and tosses in MI-5 agents, corrupt cops, local underworld figures, and compromised government officials all racing to recover the loot.

Donaldson adeptly juggles a complicated story with oodles of peripheral characters and tangled storylines without dropping a subplot, and he drives the action and the tension with muscular storytelling chops. Best of all, he returns the genre to the physicality of logistics and practical mechanics in an era before cell phones and computer hacks. The sprawling messiness only adds to the dynamism. Stephen Campbell Moore co-stars as Statham’s right-hand man and watch for David Suchet (Poirot himself) in a small role as a mob boss.

Rated R

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On Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD from Amazon Video and other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Bank Job [DVD]
The Bank Job (Two-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy) [DVD]
The Bank Job [Blu-ray]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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