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
Distributed by Lionsgate Films
Release dates 29 February 2008
Running time 111 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
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 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.


Petty-criminal-gone-straight, Terry Leather (Jason Statham), owns a struggling car-sales garage. His friend, the photographer Kevin Swain's (Stephen Campbell Moore) ex-girlfriend, a former model named Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) offers Terry a chance to earn enough money to never worry about debt again: a bank robbery in Baker Street, London. Terry gathers his petty-criminal friends, including Kevin, a sometime pornographic actor Dave Shilling (Daniel Mays), a mechanic named Bambas (Alki David), and an elegant con-man "Major" Guy Singer (James Faulkner). While scouting the branch of Lloyds Bank, Terry and Martine inspect the vault while Kevin and Dave case the exterior. The Soho gangster Lew Vogel (David Suchet) happens upon Kevin and Dave, the latter of whom has made some films for Vogel.

The newly formed gang leases a leather accessories shop two doors away from the bank, and proceed to dig a tunnel under a fast-food restaurant to reach the underground bank vault. Terry employs Eddie Burton (Michael Jibson), one of his garage workers, as a watchman with a walkie-talkie on a nearby roof. Martine, once caught smuggling heroin into Britain and wanting to avoid jail, has set up the gang for this job on behalf of MI5, which desires the contents of a certain safe deposit box, No. 118. This box contains compromising photos of a British Royal (though Princess Margaret is not directly identified).[6] Martine is having an affair with ambitious MI5 operative Tim Everett (Richard Lintern); the photos and box belong to a black militant gangster who calls himself Michael X (Peter de Jersey); he uses the photos to avoid trouble with the Metropolitan Police, and MI5 is charged with recovering the photos.

As the gang digs, their radio chatter draws the attention of a local amateur radio operator, who realises a robbery is in progress. He calls the police, who search their ten-mile radius and listen for concrete details to pin the robbery down. Terry's crew enter and loot the vault, as Martine goes for the photo deposit-box. A suspicious Terry opens it with her and, upon seeing the pictures, wonders if Martine has a hidden agenda. Another box has many photos of high-ranking government officials, including a minister, in compromising positions in a local S&M brothel. The gang takes these with money and other valuables. Terry arranges for alternate transportation "to be safe", throwing off MI5 which had intended to intercept them. Guy and Bambas escape with their share and Terry confronts Martine over the photos; she explains the unfolding predicament. With the robbery discovered, the police—corrupt ones receiving payoffs and honest ones—begin separate investigations while MI5 continues its search. Also joining the search for Terry's crew is Vogel, an organised crime figure worried about the contents of his ledger, which lists payoffs he made to police, which was also stolen in the robbery. He informs Michael X that the Royal 'portraits' have gone missing, and Michael X becomes suspicious of Gale Benson (Hattie Morahan), an MI5 spy who is sleeping with his American colleague Black Power militant, Hakim Jamal (Colin Salmon), and has travelled with him and Jamal to Trinidad, with instructions to find the Royal portraits.

Recalling the chance encounter with Dave outside the bank before the robbery, Vogel has him tortured for information. Dave breaks and Vogel's associates go to Terry's garage and kidnap Eddie, the lookout. Meanwhile, a senior government minister, Lord Drysdale, is shown photos of himself in the brothel run by Sonia Bern (Sharon Maughan), given by Terry to Tim and then to MI5 Executive Director Miles Urquhart (Peter Bowles); Drysdale and Urquhart agree to co-operate in absolving the robbers and securing them safe passage, in exchange for covering up the mess. Meanwhile, MI5 issues a D-Notice forbidding press reports. Police simultaneously release recordings of the walkie-talkie conversations in the hope that someone will recognise the voices. These recordings are heard on the radio by Terry's young daughters, who tell their mother; her worries over Terry's absence increase. Vogel's accomplice, corrupt Detective Gerald Pyke (Don Gallagher), shoots Dave and threatens to shoot Eddie unless Vogel gets his ledger back. Vogel agrees with Terry to meet him at Paddington Station in London. Meanwhile, Guy and Bambas are murdered by persons unknown, and Michael X has Gale killed in Trinidad by associates. Terry has Kevin give updates to Detective Sergeant Roy Given (Gerard Horan), the (honest) officer in charge of the investigation, citing knowledge of corrupt officers under Vogel's control. He convinces Vogel to go to Paddington Station at the same time, offering him the ledger in return for Eddie's safe return.

Terry heads to the rendezvous while Martine meets Tim, her original contact in MI5, overlooking the scene. Vogel and his corrupt police arrive with Eddie, but recognise the MI5 agents and run. The deputy head of MI5 (accompanied by Lord Mountbatten) exchanges the fresh passports Terry negotiated for the photos of the princess. Terry then chases Vogel and in a fight knocks out Vogel and his thugs, including corrupt Det. Con. Nick Barton (Craig Fairbrass). Det. Sgt. Given, officer in charge of the true investigation, arrives to see the robbers arrested. He speaks with the MI5 officers present, who direct police to let the bank robbers go. Terry gives the ledger to Given before he, Kevin, and Eddie leave the scene. Vogel and the corrupt officers are arrested instead. Everett personally supervises Michael X's arrest in Trinidad, and has Gale's remains exhumed for reburial in Britain. The final scenes have Terry and Martine saying good-bye, and Terry and his reunited family enjoying a carefree life on their small motor yacht off a sunny beach.

The epilogue states that the revelations about the brothel forced many government officials to resign. Scotland Yard investigates the corrupt officers named in the ledger. It notes that Michael X was hanged in 1975 for Benson's murder and erroneously claims that his personal files are kept hidden in the British National Archives until 2054.[7] Vogel is imprisoned for eight years for crimes that were unrelated to the robbery. The murderers of Guy and Bambas have never been found. About £4 million worth of materials and money were stolen from the robbery. At least 100 safe deposit box owners neither claim insurance nor identify 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]