The Bank Job

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This article is about the film. For the TV quiz show, see The Bank Job (game show).
The Bank Job
Bank job ver2.jpg
Promotional movie poster
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Produced by Chuck Roven
Steve Chasman
Written by Dick Clement
Ian La Frenais
Starring Jason Statham
Saffron Burrows
Richard Lintern
Stephen Campbell Moore
James Faulkner
Daniel Mays
Music by J. Peter Robinson
Cinematography Michael Coulter
Edited by John Gilbert
Mosaic Media Group
Omnilab Media
Relativity Media
Atlas Entertainment
Distributed by Lionsgate Films
Release dates
29 February 2008
Running time
111 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget US$20 million[1]
Box office US$64,068,159[2]

The Bank Job is a 2008 British crime film written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Jason Statham, based on the 1971 Baker Street robbery in central London, from which the money and valuables stolen were never recovered. The producers allege that the story was prevented from being told in 1971 because of a D-Notice government gagging request, allegedly to protect a prominent member of the British Royal Family.[3][4] According to the producers, this movie is intended to reveal the truth for the first time,[5] although it includes significant elements of fiction.

The premiere was held in London on 18 February 2008, and the film was released in both the UK and USA on 29 February 2008. It was a critical and financial success.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The British Security Services (MI5) are suddenly taking a lot of interest in a safe deposit box, stored in a bank in London’s Baker Street. It belongs to a black militant gangster, Michael X, and contains compromising photos of a Royal princess,[6] which he hopes will keep him untouchable by the police. An ex-model, Martine, is also wanting to do a deal with the cops, to avoid jail for drug-smuggling, and she plans to retrieve the photos, using the influence of her lover, who works for MI5.

Martine approaches her friend Terry, a struggling car salesman with criminal contacts, and explains that if he can assemble the gang, he’ll be richly rewarded, though she doesn’t tell him the significance of the deposit box. He recruits a small team, including one of his own workers, Eddie, as lookout with a walkie-talkie, and a porn actor Dave, who once made films for a top gangster Lew, who happens to run into him outside the bank.

The gang tunnel their way into the bank-vault, where they loot money and valuables, but Terry is suspicious that Martine only wants one box of photographs. When he escapes with her, he throws off the pursuit, which was by MI5, as planned. By now the police have been alerted by a radio ham who has picked up the ‘chatter’, and Lew learns which boxes are missing, including his own box, full of evidence about his payoffs to bent cops. He notifies a furious Michael in Trinidad, who correctly suspects a fellow-militant’s lover Gale of spying for MI5, and murders her. Lew decides that Dave’s presence outside that particular bank was not a coincidence, and has him tortured for information. Dave gives in, and Lew goes to Terry’s garage to kidnap Eddie the lookout. Meanwhile, a government minister learns that he is also featured in some of the stolen photos, and persuades MI5 to give the robbers new passports and safe passage, in exchange for covering up the scandal.

One of Lew’s bent police shoots Dave and threatens to shoot Eddie unless Lew gets his evidence back. Terry agrees to deliver it to him at Paddington station, but has meanwhile passed on the details to an honest cop Roy, who alerts MI5 agents, whom Lew recognises, and he and his corrupt cops make a run for it. Terry pursues Lew and there is a fight, broken up by Roy, who arrests Lew and his colleagues. In Trinidad, Michael is also arrested. With his freedom and his new passport, Terry and his family are seen enjoying a carefree life on their small motor yacht off a sunny beach.

As the epilogue explains, Lew’s corrupt police were duly investigated, and Michael X was hanged for Gale’s murder, though it is not true that his personal files are to be kept hidden until 2054.[7] About £4 million worth of property was stolen. Lew was imprisoned for eight years for crimes unrelated to the robbery. At least 100 safe deposit box owners have neither claimed insurance nor identified the items in their boxes.


Screenshot illustrating how a special outdoor set was constructed for production of the film

Historical background[edit]

The film is in part based on historical facts about the Baker Street robbery. A gang tunnelled into a branch of Lloyds Bank at the junction of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, in London, on the night of 11 September 1971 and robbed the safe deposit boxes there. The robbers had rented a leather goods shop named Le Sac, two doors down from the bank, and tunnelled a distance of approximately 40 feet (12 metres), passing under the intervening Chicken Inn restaurant.[4]

Robert Rowlands, a radio ham operator, overheard conversations between the robbers and their rooftop lookout. He contacted police and tape-recorded the conversations, which were subsequently made public. The film includes lines recorded by Rowlands, such as the lookout's comment that "Money may be your god, but it's not mine, and I'm fucking off."[8]

The film's producers claim that they have an inside source, identified in press reports as George McIndoe, who served as an executive producer.[9] The film's plot point of the issuance of a D-Notice, because a safe deposit box held sex pictures of Princess Margaret with London gangster-turned-actor John Bindon, is entirely fictional. The possible connection to Michael X is apparently based on information provided by McIndoe, though the basis and extent of his information remains unclear. The film-makers acknowledged that they made up the character Martine, and David Denby in The New Yorker wrote that it is "impossible to say how much of the film's story is true".[10]

The fictitious character of Lew Vogel may in part allude to pornographer and racketeer Bernie Silver,[11] a key figure in Soho in the 1960s and early 1970s, who was jailed in 1975 for the 1956 murder of Tommy "Scarface" Smithson; and also to later events surrounding his associate the real-life pornographer James Humphreys. After an outcry in 1972 when the Sunday People published photographs of the head of the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad, Commander Kenneth Drury, spending a luxurious two-week holiday with their wives with Humphreys in Cyprus, a police raid on Humphreys' house uncovered a wallsafe containing a diary cataloguing detailed itemised payments to seventeen different officers. Humphreys was jailed for eight years in 1974 for wounding his wife's former lover. He then turned Queen's Evidence, testifying against some of Scotland Yard's most senior officers in two major corruption trials in 1977; for which he received a Royal Pardon and was released from prison.[12] In 1994 Humphreys was jailed for twelve months for living off the earnings of prostitutes.[13][14] Vogel's role as a slum landlord using Michael X as his enforcer draws on the career of Peter Rachman, who employed Michael X in this role.[citation needed]

The major political sex scandal of the period was the resignation of Lord Lambton in 1973. Again the circumstances were somewhat different from those shown in the film. Lambton resigned after a photograph was circulated around Fleet Street by the husband of one of two prostitutes he was shown in bed with, smoking marijuana; along with more photographs of other "prominent people".[15][16] The prostitute, Norma Levy, did specialise in sado-masochism as a dominatrix, but remembers Lambton as being "relatively straight", and if anything more interested in the marijuana.[17] She had been introduced to Lambton in July 1972 by upmarket madame Jean Horn.[15] The affair was subsequently investigated by DCS Bert Wickstead of the Serious Crime Squad, who had also led the investigations into Silver and Humphreys.[18][19] A confusion led to the additional resignation of another minister, Lord Jellicoe, although he had not been directly connected with Levy.

Part of the filming took place on location at the offices of Websters, 136 Baker Street where the rooftops were actually used for lookout purposes. The majority of outside shots, namely shots including the bank and adjacent shops, were done on a specially constructed set of Baker Street, to retain an authentic feel of the period and to allow for greater control of visible elements. This partial set was extended using VFX by the Australian company Iloura.[20]


The production crew visited the Historic Dockyard in Chatham to shoot the sequence at the side entrance of London Paddington Station where the final showdown between Terry and Lew Vogel takes place.[21]


The film was well received by critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 79% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 142 reviews.[22] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 69 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.[23]

Box office performance[edit]

The film grossed US$63,754,550 on a $20,000,000 budget.[24] The film opened at No. 4 in North America and grossed US$5,935,256 in 1,603 theatres, averaging to about US$3,703 per cinema.[25]



  1. ^ "The Bank Job Box Office Data". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "The Bank Job (2008)". Box Office Mojo. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (11 March 2007). "Untold story of Baker Street bank robbery". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Bank job that opened the door on a royal sex scandal". Daily Mirror. 16 February 2008. 
  5. ^ Production Information, Lionsgate UK website, Accessed 9 January 2008
  6. ^ "How MI5 raided a bank to get pictures of Princess Margaret", Evening Standard, 20 May 2007
  7. ^ The National Archives catalogue shows six files relating to Michael X, all of which were made public before the film was made. Unreleased files appear in the catalogue while still restricted, but there is none such relating to Michael X.
  8. ^ Hoyle, Antonia (16 February 2008). "FOUND: Radio Ham's sensational tape of the bank heist 'that rescued compromising pictures of Princess Margaret'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  9. ^ Lawrence, Will (15 February 2008). "Revisiting the riddle of Baker Street". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  10. ^ Denby, David (10 March 2008). "Class Acts: "The Bank Job" and "The Duchess of Langeais"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  11. ^ Paul Byrnes, Review: The Bank Job, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 2008
  12. ^ Barry Cox, John Shirley, and Martin Short (1977). The Fall of Scotland Yard. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-052318-9.
  13. ^ 'Emperor of porn' jailed for running prostitution ring, The Independent, 2 July 1994
  14. ^ Andrew Weir, Jimmy and Rusty, The Independent, 4 July 1994
  15. ^ a b Vigorous gardening and debauchery: Lord Lambton's recipe for a busier life, Daily Telegraph, 1 January 2004
  16. ^ Obituary: Lord Lambton, The Guardian, 2 January 2007
  17. ^ David Jones, "Call girl who nearly toppled a government reveals all", Daily Mail, 26 January 2007
  18. ^ Obituary: Cdr Bert Wickstead, The Daily Telegraph, 24 March 2001
  19. ^ Obituary: Bert Wickstead, The Guardian, 27 March 2001
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Bank Job Film Focus". 
  22. ^ "The Bank Job Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "The Bank Job Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. Retrieved 7 March 2008. 
  24. ^ "The Bank Job (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 11 June 2008. 
  25. ^ "The Bank Job (2008) – Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 March 2008. 

External links[edit]