The Italian Job (2003 film)
|The Italian Job|
|Directed by||F. Gary Gray|
|Produced by||Donald De Line|
|Based on||The Italian Job
by Troy Kennedy Martin
|Music by||John Powell|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$176 million|
The Italian Job is a 2003 heist film directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Wayne and Donna Powers and produced by Donald DeLine. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Mos Def and Donald Sutherland. It is an American remake of the 1969 British film of the same name, and is about a team of thieves who plan to steal gold from a former associate who double-crossed them. Despite the shared title, the plot and characters of this film differ from those of its source material; Gray described the film as "an homage to the original."
Most of the film was shot on location in Venice and Los Angeles, where canals and streets, respectively, were temporarily shut down during principal photography. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, The Italian Job was theatrically released in the United States on May 30, 2003, and grossed over $176 million worldwide. Critical response was generally positive, with publications highlighting the action sequences.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (January 2015)|
In Venice, Italy, John Bridger, a professional safecracker, has just left the store and bought a necklace for his daughter, Stella. He later goes to the St. Mark's Square to meet with Charlie Croker, a professional thief and his protege, where they discuss their latest plan; to steal 35 million dollars worth of gold bullion from a group of Italian gangsters, who robbed the gold weeks ago. They arrive on a boat and rendezvous with Napster, their computer expert, Rob, their wheelman, and Left Ear, their explosives expert, to establish contact with Steve, who's their inside man. They arrive at a garage underneath the apartment in which the gangsters have the safe with the plates, and Steve is in the apartment just above the garage, where he plants a C4 plastic explosive on the ceiling underneath the safe, with Left Ear doing the same just underneath Steve, blowing out the floor and landing the safe in the boat.
The gangsters follow and chase Rob and Napster through the Venice canals, but after Steve calls in for backup, they escape after disabling the gangster's boats. However, they are revealed as a decoy to drag the gangsters out; John and Charlie are with Left Ear in scuba suits, with the safe actually in the water, with the "fake" safe on the boat. John manages to open it, and they load the gold in the scuba vehicles and leave the scene just as the police arrive in the garage.
Some time later, in the Alps near the Austrian border, the gang is celebrating the heist with wine near a small cot, where they share stories about what they will do with the gold and their future plans, while John and Charlie agree that they will part ways after this and will find peace. However, as they drive to the Austrian border, they are intercepted on a small bridge by an armed group in two Jeeps, who corner them with rifles and start to unload the gold. Steve points his gun on Rob, revealing that he paid off his backup and betrayed the group, intending to keep the gold for himself. As John tries to rebel, Steve kills him. Rob drives the truck in the lake while Steve is out, and Steve and his group grab guns and start firing at the bottom to kill the rest. Charlie pulls out several oxygen tanks to keep air, until Steve leaves with the group. Arriving on shore, Charlie mourns John, and they leave.
A year later, in Philadelphia, Stella Bridger, John's estranged daughter and a vault technician, is just finishing her latest job cracking a safe for the police, when she arrives in her office to find Charlie waiting for her. She is still furious with him for her father's death, but Charlie informs her that his contact, Skinny Pete, has found Steve, who has changed his last name to Frizelli and relocated to Los Angeles with the gold, which he is laundering for money, and that he wants her to help him to steal the gold. Even though Stella refuses at first, she looks at her father's memento, and also the necklace that John bought her in Venice, and she calls Charlie and agrees for the job.
After accepting the job, Charlie introduces Stella to the rest of the gang, and they arrive all together to Atlanta and plan on how to steal the gold from Steve. Napster monitors his home looking for weak spots, while Charlie goes to Skinny Pete with Left Ear to get the explosives for the security gates. After tapping his phone, they devise a plan to disable his electronics by shutting the power, and then they have Stella posing as a phone technician with a small camera in her shirt pocket to have a look at his house interior to find the vault, since Steve doesn't know about Stella. However, Stella charms Steve and he invites her out after "fixing" his modem.
The gang devises a plan to rob Steve as he is lured out to go on the date, and they arm themselves with the explosives and tools to break into Steve's vault, and also have three Mini Coopers tuned up with the help of Rob's friend and a mechanic, Wrench, but however, the initial plan fails when they discover Steve's neighbour having a party, which forces them to abandon the mission since there are too many witnesses and Steve could suspect them. Stella goes on the date with Steve to stall him, but she accidentally reveals herself to Steve after quoting her father's well-known line. When Steve threatens her, Charlie reveals himself to Steve with the gang, and informs him that he will get revenge from Steve for what he did, punching him in the face in the process.
The gang suffers problems with robbing Steve's house now that he knows that they are alive and ready to exact revenge, and Steve tries to speed up the process of laundering the gold, which he launders through a Ukrainian jewelry store owner named Yevhen. However, as he visits him one night to launder several plates to Yevhen, he accidentally exposes that he knows about the Venice heist, and even though he swears that he didn't tell anyone, Steve murders him. However, Yevhen's cousin, Maskhov, who is a Ukrainian crime family member, plans revenge on Yevhen's death, and finds Skinny Pete through one of his contacts, since Skinny Pete has been asking about the location of the plates for Charlie, and he informs Charlie about Mashkov after he pays him a visit.
After listening to Steve's calls, Napster discovers that Steve plans to reload the rest of the gold to Mexico to lure it away from Charlie, and they hear that he will transport it in an armored truck to the LAX. Charlie devises a plan to have the gold boosted in transit, and also recruits Wrench for the team. After obtaining equipment from Skinny Pete, they devise the final plan and prepare for Steve's departure.
On the scheduled day, Steve is in the helicopter monitoring the load-up, and Rob is with Left Ear in front of Steve's mansion waiting for the truck. However, they discover that Steve has not brought one, but three armored trucks as a protection. Napster, who is at the train station with his equipment, hacks into the Los Angeles traffic system to monitor the trucks. He analyzes the length of the back tires for the trucks, and correctly deduces that the one with the lowest length is carrying the gold. He disables the security grid of the traffic system, effectively giving him control, and creates a huge traffic jam to lead the truck at the preplanned route.
On the Plaza, Rob and Left Ear rendezvous with Charlie and Stella in the Mini Coopers, and they rush into the subway after Napster signals them. They jump into a subway tunnel, which Napster blocks with the oncoming train, and they arrive in a tunnel clearance underneath an avenue. Above them, the truck arrives, having being led there by Napster. Wrench is there, giving them the signal, and Left Ear, using set up C4 explosives, blows up a portion of the avenue and it falls below right into the tunnel, and Wrench blows a sign to cover the hole. Steve, in his helicopter monitoring the truck, orders his security guards on bikes to follow into the subway.
In the tunnels, after Rob subdues the guards, Stella discovers that the safe is not the same one she saw in Steve's mansion, but that he switched them with a professional Israel-built safe with a glass panel over it. Stella drills through, but the drill is stuck in, forcing her to open it by touch. She is stressed out, but she manages to open the safe. Napster calculates the number of the plates and figures that there is 27 million dollars worth of gold, which they load into the cars. They drive through the sewer lines, but Steve's guards on bikes arrive, but they knock them after exiting the sewers in the flood control.
Steve arrives in his helicopter on the spot and follows them across L.A streets, and Napster navigates them and creates a green wave to help them cruise through the streets. They split up, with Rob, Left Ear and Stella driving to Union Station and load the cars to the train carts, while Charlie goads Steve to a parking lot, where he pulls a stunt which damages Steve's helicopter, forcing him to steal a truck to follow him.
At the train depot, Wrench is waiting and loads the cars in the train, and Steve arrives as well, bribing Wrench to let him in the train, but finds Charlie waiting. Charlie sarcastically applauds Steve for a brilliant plan to try to hide the gold, but mocks him for failure. Furious, Steve brandishes a gun on Charlie, demanding the gold, but armed men corner Steve. Mashkov arrives, since Charlie contacted him through Skinny Pete and made a deal that he would provide backup in exchange for a portion of the gold and Steve. Even though Steve tries to defend himself, Mashkov's men take him away, and Stella also punches him in the face in revenge.
The gang boards the Amtrak train to New Orleans, and they all celebrate in John's memory. Towards the end while the credits roll, it says that Rob bought an Aston Martin Vanquish, Left Ear bought a dream house in Andalusia, Spain with a room just for his shoes, Lyle made the cover of Wired magazine after declaring himself the real Napster, and he got the stereo he wanted, and Charlie found someone he really cared about and held onto for dear life, Stella.
- Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker, the team's mastermind and professional thief, who seeks revenge for the murder of his mentor, John Bridger. He is described as having "been a thief since [he] had baby teeth"; a flashback shows a young Charlie helping kids to steal back money from a bully.
- Charlize Theron as Stella Bridger, John's daughter and only child, and a "professional safe and vault technician". She prefers the use of technology to crack safes for various agencies and the police, unlike her father, who did the whole thing by touch. She reluctantly joins the team after she learns that her father's murderer, Steve, has been located, for revenge.
- Edward Norton as Steve, the "inside man" during the Venice heist. He later betrays Charlie, John, Rob, Lyle, and "Left Ear" and leaves them for dead. He is described as "always thinking defensively", and as having "no imagination".
- Donald Sutherland as John Bridger, Stella's father and a professional safecracker whose methods are "old-fashioned", handled entirely by touch. He is Charlie's longtime partner. He once violated his parole and has been in prison. He is killed by Steve during a shootout in the Alps.
- Jason Statham as "Handsome Rob", the team's "premier wheelman" and a ladies man. According to Charlie, he once drove all the way from Los Angeles just so he could set the record for the world's longest freeway chase (a flashback scene shows Rob being chased down the freeway by dozens of police cars). In doing so, he received 110 love letters sent to his jail cell from women who saw him on the news.
- Seth Green as Lyle (a.k.a. "Napster"), a "computer genius" and the team's computer expert. He claims he is the real inventor of Napster, saying that Shawn Fanning, who was his roommate in college back in 1997, stole the idea from him.
- Mos Def as Gilligan "Left Ear", the teams "demolition and explosives expert". His name comes from an incident during his childhood when he put too many M-80s in a toilet bowl and lost the hearing in his right ear.
- Franky G as Wrench, a mechanic who Rob contacts to engineer the Minis to carry the gold. He also assists in planting explosives to drop the armored car into the subway, where he serves as the lookout.
- Boris Lee Krutonog as Yevhen, a jewelry store owner with ties to the Ukrainian mob, who uses it as a laundering front. He is also a conspiracy theorist. He is hired by Steve to help sell the gold. Steve shoots him after realizing that he knows too much about where the gold came from.
- Olek Krupa as Mashkov, a high-ranking member of an L.A. Ukrainian mob family and the cousin of Yevhen. He uses Yevhen's store as a laundering front and also has a front on a local junkyard, and he is also against Steve for murdering Yevhen.
- Shawn Fanning (uncredited cameo) as himself. Lyle accused Fanning of stealing Napster from him while he was taking a nap in their Northeastern University dorm room. Although other characters see this as mere bragging, a scene shows Fanning in fact creeping over Green's sleeping body and stealing his computer disc.
Neal Purvis and Robert Wade wrote a draft of a remake of the 1969 British crime comedy The Italian Job which was rejected by Paramount. Screenwriting team Donna and Wayne Powers were subsequently commissioned to write a remake. The duo viewed the original film, which neither had seen before, only once "because [they] wanted to get a sense of what it was about" in regards to its tone. Over the course of two years and through 18 drafts, they developed a screenplay which was described by director F. Gary Gray as "inspired by the original." Gray, Powers and Powers, and executive producer James Dyer identified the most prominent similarities as the trio of Mini Coopers used by the thieves, as well as the titular heist involving the theft of gold bullion. Some sequences of the film were storyboarded and previsualized by Gray before production began.
Gray had been interested in working with Wahlberg since seeing his performance in Boogie Nights (1997). After reading the script for The Italian Job, Gray contacted Wahlberg, who "fell in love with it" after reading it himself. Green was also attracted to the project because of the script. Theron was Gray's first choice for the character of Stella Bridger, and Wahlberg also recommended her for the role. She spent time with a safecracker in preparing for the role. Gray's casting director Sheila Jaffe suggested Statham for the role of getaway driver Handsome Rob, and Gray agreed with her choice. Norton took the role of Steve Frazelli, due to a contractual obligation he had to fulfill. Wahlberg, Theron, and Statham attended special driver's training sessions at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park for nearly a month during pre-production.
Gray and cinematographer Wally Pfister worked together to develop a visual style for the film before production began. They viewed car commercials and magazine photographs, as well as chase sequences from The French Connection (1971), Ronin (1998), and The Bourne Identity (2002) as visual references. Pfister wanted "dark textures and undertones and strong contrast"; he collaborated with production designer Charlie Wood on the color palette, and the two would confer with Gray on their ideas. Paramount preferred that The Italian Job not be shot in the anamorphic format, despite Pfister's wishes to do so. Gray wanted a widescreen aspect ratio, so they chose to shoot the film in Super 35 for a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. Once principal photography began, Gray frequently utilized dollies, as well as Steadicams and a Technocrane, to keep the cameras almost constantly moving.
Most of The Italian Job was shot on location, at sites Pfister scouted over 12 weeks during pre-production, but some scenes were filmed on sets. The Venice building where the film's opening heist sequence takes place, the van from which the thieves survey Steve Frazelli's mansion, a hotel room, and the LACMTA Red Line subway tunnel were sets constructed at Downey Studios in California. For the scene in which an armored truck falls through Hollywood Boulevard and into the subway tunnel below, Pfister set up seven cameras to capture the vehicle's ~30 foot (9.1 m) descent. Three hundred cars were used to simulate the traffic jam at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, which was controlled by the production crew for a week. Three of the 32 custom-built Mini Coopers used during principal photography were fitted with electric motors since combustion engines were not allowed in the subway tunnels, where some scenes were shot. Other Mini Coopers were modified to allow for camera placement on and inside the vehicles. The director remarked that "[the Mini Coopers are] part of the cast."
Gray wanted the film to be as realistic as possible; accordingly, the actors did most of their own stunts, and computer-generated imagery was used very sparingly. The second unit, under director Alexander Witt and cinematographer Josh Bleibtreu, filmed establishing shots, the Venice canal chase sequence, and the Los Angeles chase sequence over a period of 40 days. Filming on location posed some challenges. The opening heist sequence in Venice, Italy, was strictly monitored by the local authorities, due to the high speeds the boats were driven at. The frigid temperatures at Passo Fedaia in the Italian Alps created problems during production: "The guns would jam, and if you could imagine not being able to walk 40 feet with a bottle of water without it freezing, those are the conditions we had to work in," Gray remarked. Pedestrians had to be allowed to use the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard between takes. Also, scenes which took place on freeways and city streets were only filmed on weekends.
The Italian Job premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on May 11, 2003, and was theatrically released in the United States on May 30, 2003. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $19,457,944. Paramount re-released the film on August 29, and by the time its theatrical release closed in November 2003, the film had grossed $106,128,601 in the United States and Canada and $69,941,570 overseas—$176,070,171 worldwide. It was the highest-grossing film produced by Paramount in 2003.
Based on 177 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, The Italian Job has an overall approval rating of 73%, with a weighted average score of 6.4/10. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 68 out of 100 from the 37 reviews it collected, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Stephanie Zacharek, writing for Salon.com, liked the reinvention of the plot and the style and execution of the action sequences, specifically those involving the trio of Mini Coopers, which she wrote were the stars of the film. BBC reviewer Stella Papamichael gave The Italian Job 4 stars out of 5, and wrote that the "revenge plot adds wallop lacking in the original". Los Angeles Times reviewer Kevin Thomas praised the opening Venice heist sequence and the characterization of each of the thieves, but felt that the Los Angeles heist sequence was "arguably stretched out a little too long". Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, writing that the film was "two hours of mindless escapism on a relatively skilled professional level." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle concurred, describing The Italian Job as pure but smart entertainment "plotted and executed with invention and humor". Reviewer James Berardinelli also gave the film 3 stars out of 4, and said that Gray had discovered the right recipe to do a heist movie: "keep things moving, develop a nice rapport between the leads, toss in the occasional surprise, and top with a sprinkling of panache." Variety 's Robert Koehler compared The Italian Job to The Score (2001), another "finely tuned heist pic" which also featured Edward Norton in a similar role.
David Denby, writing for The New Yorker, praised Norton's performance, as well as those of Seth Green and Mos Def, and the lack of digital effects in the action sequences. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B− grade, comparing it positively to the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds, as well as the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven. New York Daily News reviewer Jack Mathews gave The Italian Job 2.5 stars out of 4, writing that the action sequences and plot twists were a "vast improvement" from the original, and that the Los Angeles heist sequence was "clever and preposterous". Mike Clark of USA Today also questioned the probability of the Los Angeles heist sequence and wrote that the film was "a lazy and in-name-only remake", giving it 2 stars out of 4. Peter Travers, writing for Rolling Stone, gave The Italian Job 1 star out of 4, describing the film as "a tricked-out remake of a heist flick that was already flat and formulaic in 1969." Travers enjoyed the comic relief in Green's and Def's characters, and added that Norton's was "[t]he most perversely magnetic performance" outside of the Mini Coopers, but felt that there was a lack of logic in the film.
The Italian Job was released on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment October 7, 2003, and includes five bonus features on different aspects of the film's production, in addition to six deleted scenes. It was released on HD DVD August 8, 2006 and on Blu-ray Disc October 24, 2006.
F. Gary Gray won a Film Life Movie Award for Best Director at the 2004 American Black Film Festival. Clay Cullen, Michael Caines, Jean Paul Ruggiero and Mike Massa won an award for Best Specialty Stunt at the 2004 Taurus World Stunt Awards for the boat chase through the canals of Venice. The Italian Job was nominated for the 2003 Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, but the award went to Kill Bill. In April 2009, IGN named the film's Los Angeles chase sequence one of the top 10 car chases of the 21st Century.
Criminologist Nicole Rafter saw The Italian Job as part of a revival of the heist film around the start of the 21st century, along with The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) and Ocean's Eleven (2001), both of which were also remakes of 1960s heist films. In describing his theory of a "team film" genre, film scholar Dr. Jeremy Strong writes that The Italian Job could be categorized as such, along with The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), The Dirty Dozen (1967), and more recently The Usual Suspects (1995) and Mission: Impossible (1996). He states that
a team film involves a group working towards a particular objective. However, goal-orientation is a widely shared plot attribute of many texts and genres and it is also the case that the overwhelming majority of films involve a plurality of interacting characters. An element that distinguishes the team film then is that a heightened significance is afforded to the group as the means by which a given objective is attempted. [...] From film to film there is variation in the extent to which particular central characters may determine events and take up screen time but team films are recognizable by their insistence upon the relationship between group and goal.
Strong additionally makes a direct comparison between The Italian Job and Mission: Impossible, citing the plot device of "a first task that elucidates the roles and skills of team members but which is sabotaged by betrayal, necessitating a re-constitution of the team."
The use of BMW's then-new line of retro-styled Minis in the film was mentioned by critics and business analysts alike as a prime example of modern product placement, or more specifically "brand integration". Film critic Joe Morgenstern called The Italian Job "the best car commercial ever". Zacharek and Mathews both noted the cars' prominence in their reviews of the film, also writing that their presence served as a connection to the 1969 film upon which it was based. BusinessWeek reported in April 2004 that sales of the Mini in 2003—the year in which The Italian Job was theatrically released—had increased 22 percent over the previous year.
When the team retrieves the gold bullion from the antagonist (Steve), they recover a stack of 13x4x4=208 bricks. Each standard gold bar weights 400 troy ounces, for a total of 83,200 ounces of gold. In the film, $27 million is the market value. But today (at $1,232.40 per oz.) the market value would be $102,535,680. Early in the film, when John Bridger jokingly tells the team to invest 'in gold', this turns out to be possibly the best investment advice of the time.
A sequel to The Italian Job, tentatively titled The Brazilian Job, was in development by the summer of 2004, but has faced multiple delays. Principal photography was initially slated to begin in March 2005, with a projected release date in November or December 2005. However, the script was never finalized, and the release date was pushed back to sometime in 2006, and later summer 2007.
Writer David Twohy approached Paramount Pictures with an original screenplay entitled The Wrecking Crew, and though the studio reportedly liked the idea, they thought it would work better as a sequel to The Italian Job. Gray was slated to return as director, as well as most, if not all, of the original cast. At least two drafts of the script had been written by August 2007, but the project had not been greenlit.
In March 2008, in an interview, Jason Statham said that "somebody should just erase it from IMDb.... and put it back on there when it's fully due and ready. [...] It's one of those things that's just sitting around." Producer Donald De Line revealed in June that a script for The Brazilian Job had been developed and budgeted, but "a lot of things were happening with various management changes and it got tabled." Describing its story, he said it "starts in Brazil, the set up is in Rio and the picture moves to Belgium where there’s something involving diamonds." However, Green stated that September that the sequel was unlikely in the near future.
On March 9, 2009, De Line said that "[we] have a version at Paramount that we're talking very serious about", additionally mentioning that the cast was interested in the project. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been working on a draft of the sequel that year. The Daily Record reported in September that Theron was signed up for the film. That October, Gray said that he enjoyed making The Italian Job and hoped that he would still be interested in directing the sequel if the script became finalized and mentioned that it would be dependent upon scheduling.
In January 2010, Twohy was quoted in an interview as saying "The Brazilian Job probably isn't happening. I wrote it years ago, and they just keep rolling it over on IMDb. Paramount—what can I say?" When asked about the sequel that June, Green said "The Brazilian Job doesn't exist actually" and called it a "wonderful myth of IMDb." However, the next month, Mark Wahlberg said that sequel production was "active" again.
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