The perfect bank job

The Bank Job Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, David Suchet, Stephen Campbell Moore, Keeley Hawes, Alki David, Daniel Mays, Michael Jibson, James Faulkner, Peter De Jersey.

Andrew Clarke

The Bank Job Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, David Suchet, Stephen Campbell Moore, Keeley Hawes, James Faulkner, Colin Salmon, Peter DeJersey, Sharon Maughan, Peter De Jersey. Dir: Roger Donaldson; Cert: 15; 1hr 41m

Fans of the cult TV series Life On Mars, which captured the imagination of the nation by recreating the look and feel of the 1970s, will adore Roger Donaldson's The Bank Job - which successfully mines the same cultural heritage but now transfers it to the big screen.

Written by Porridge and Likely Lads scribes Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais, The Bank Job tells the story of an audacious real crime which say the film-makers involved The Royal Family in a sex scandal, the extradition of a black power terrorist and antics by members of the aristocracy which could have rocked the British establishment to its foundations.

The story only came to light when a daring raid on a central London bank by a gang of amateur thieves was overheard by a radio ham. The police were alerted but they were unable to trace the vault until it was too late.

According to Clement and Le Frenais, it was MI5 who engineered the robbery in order to recover some compromising photographs of a senior Royal engaging in as sex romp while holidaying in Mustique. In order to achieve this they trap London party girl Martine (Burrows) into getting some of her shady pals led by second-hand car dealer Terry Leather (Statham) to rob the safe deposit vault in London's Marylebone.

Most Read

Martine has been caught smuggling cocaine into the country and if she doesn't want to go to prison then she has to recover those incriminating snaps without letting her accomplices see them. The reward is that they can keep the rest of the ill-gotten gains - particularly as it seems that most of the people with loot on deposit there are shady East End criminals. They include a Cynthia Payne-style madam and strip club boss Lew played with asthmatic relish by a wonderfully disguised David Suchet.

The main heist is fairly simple and tips its hat to a wide variety of caper movies that have gone before. The plan is simple: dig a 40ft tunnel down into the basement of a leather goods shop Le Sac, underneath the Chicken Inn restaurant, and up through 3ft of reinforced concrete into the vault.

But the real joy of the film is to be found in the recreation of London's Soho in the early 1970s with its collection of dodgy geezers and strip joints masquerading as bone fide clubs.

Also it seems that the world of The Sweeney, Z Cars and Softly Softly Task Force was also a highly corrupt one. It seems that virtually every copper was on the take.

The Bank Job is not the greatest British movie ever made but it is far more enjoyable than previous gritty gangster flicks like Love, Honour and Obey, Essex Boys and Gangster Number 1. Jason Statham manages to bring a nice startled quality to his performance which makes his character much warmer than he usually gets to portray but the real joy is in the variety of the supporting cast.

It's a movie which is greater than the sum of its pieces. It's a story which has several strands to it but by the final reel yopu can see them all fitting snugly alongside one another.

I don't know how much of this is true. Whether Lord Louis Mountbatten was really called upon to carry out a shady exchange at a London railway station, watched over by MI5, but I'd like it to be true.

What is true is that news of the robbery and what was stolen disappeared from the press after four days when a D Notice silenced any further coverage on grounds of national security. The real reason was that certain senior figures in the government and the judiciary were captured on film enjoying the services of various high class call girls in an expensive vice den. The film and photographs were among those stored in the safe deposit vault, along with what they describe as the Royal portraits.

Donaldson, who did a superb job recreating the atmosphere Cuban Missile Crisis in Thirteen Days and helmed the recent Al Pacino/Colin Farrell CIA drama The Recruit, relishes the opportunity to revisit the slightly seedy London of 1971 - now more care-worn after the excesses of the swinging sixties.

The Bank Job is good workman-like movie, telling an enjoyably intriguing tale. I, for one, now want to know more and find out exactly what was fact and what was fiction. Apparently the real robbers made off with more money than The Great Train Robbers and managed to get a signed piece of paper protecting them from prosecution.


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter