Igive in. Regardless of his limited acting range and penchant for choosing the goofiest projects available, Jason Statham is pretty awesome, and The Bank Job marks his finest work in years, mostly thanks to the absence of a gimmick to help prop up his performance. In Roger Donaldson’s brisk heist film, there’s no special effects-enhanced kung fu (The Transporter), no ridiculous facial hair and faux-profound philosophizing (Revolver), and no substandard fantasy gibberish (In the Name of the King). Instead, as a regular hood mired in a convoluted but conventional crime story set in 1971 London, Statham is left to solely rely on his badass glare—and oh, what a glare it is, so concrete-severe and impenetrable that its threat of violence seems more like a promise.
Statham has a battering-ram physicality and a personality to match, and Donaldson puts it to good, toned-down use in his based-on-real-life tale about the robbery of Lloyds Bank by Terry (Statham), a debt-ridden owner of an auto body shop. Terry is recruited by old flame Martine (Saffron Burrows) to do the job, which is really being orchestrated by MI6 spooks in order to retrieve damning sexual photos of the royal family hidden in a bank security deposit box owned by revolutionary/drug dealer/pimp Michael X (Peter De Jersey).
Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s script is a complicated affair but remains reasonably straightforward and, more importantly, swiftly paced, thereby helping make up for a few dull and/or cursorily treated plot points as well as an overarching sense of derivation. Donaldson’s plethora of askew camera angles serve no purpose other than to provide some (decent) visual jazz, just as his story’s portrait of sneaky government conduct, sexually deviant politicos, murderous rebels and noble roughnecks makes absolutely no pretense toward socio-political commentary. Rather, this modest, sturdy Bank Job strives only to be a glossy, amoral genre film, and succeeds accordingly courtesy of its leading man, here exuding more than enough cocksure macho attitude and intensity to make the proceedings’ mild banality barely matter.