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|
|Studio||De Line Pictures|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||111 minutes|
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, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, 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. A sequel, The Brazilian Job, has reportedly been in development since 2004, but has yet to be produced as of 2013.
Safe-cracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) has arranged for one final job in Venice, Italy and calls his daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) before the heist attempt. Bridger meets with planner Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and the rest of their team: Steve, the "inside man" (Edward Norton); Handsome Rob, their driver (Jason Statham); "Left Ear", their explosives expert (Mos Def); and Lyle, their technology expert (Seth Green). They successfully recover a safe containing $35 million in gold. While celebrating in the alps, they talk about what they are going to buy after they split the money six ways. When it is Steve's turn, he is unable to think of anything and simply says that he will buy the same things suggested by everyone else.
While driving on a narrow road, the team is stopped by armed men. They are revealed to be Steve's contacts when he betrays the group by killing John and firing on the others. A year later, Charlie and the team have located Steve who lives in a mansion in Los Angeles under a new identity, and is attempting to launder the gold through a jeweller, Yevhen (Boris Lee Krutonog). Planning to recover the gold before it can be moved, Charlie contacts Stella, now a professional safe-cracker for law enforcement, and convinces her to help them.
The team deactivates Steve's Internet and TV from a roadside box prompting him to call the cable company. They arrange for Stella (the only member Steve would not recognize) to enter his house and pose as a cable technician to locate the safe. Steve expresses interest in Stella while she is pretending to fix the cable and asks her for a date. Stella tells him yes in order to guarantee a time when he will be away. Charlie's initial plan is to steal the gold during this window of opportunity and to drive through the mansion in three Mini Coopers, modified by Rob's mechanic friend Wrench (Franky G) to handle the weight of the gold. Lyle hacks into traffic light control computers run by the city of Los Angeles in order to ensure their escape. Meanwhile, Steve meets with Yevhen again only to find out that he knew about the heist in Venice. Steve kills Yevhen to keep him silent, unaware that Yevhen is the cousin of the local Ukrainian crime boss Mashkov (Olek Krupa).
Charlie calls off the plan when they find that Steve's next-door neighbors are having a party that night. This forces Stella to go on the date with Steve to avoid attracting attention. This does not go as planned and Steve identifies Stella as John Bridger's daughter. Charlie confronts Steve, warning him that they will find a way to recover the gold and avenge John's death. Put on the defensive, Steve arranges to move the gold. Charlie's team sees that Steve, watching from a helicopter above, has enlisted three armored trucks, two to act as decoys. With Lyle's help, they determine which truck holds the gold and use the traffic lights to manipulate the truck to a designated spot. There, they detonate explosives under the street, dropping the truck into an empty subway tunnel. Having driven the Mini Coopers into the subway just before a train blocked the entrance to it, Charlie and his team have a head start on Steve's security team. This buys them enough time for Stella to crack the safe revealing $27 million worth of gold inside.
As the three Mini Coopers loaded with gold drive out, Steve gives chase in his helicopter. Charlie gets Steve to corner him in a garage and is able to render the chopper unflyable with a risky driving maneuver. Steve eventually catches up to the train yard where the team has gathered and opens the boxcar where he thinks the gold is stashed. Instead he finds Charlie waiting for him. Steve threatens Charlie at gunpoint, but is captured by Mashkov's men. Charlie reveals that he told Mashkov about Steve stealing the gold and killing Yevhen; Mashkov accepts a share and takes Steve with him. Eager to buy what they joked about in Italy, the team members split up the remaining gold and go their separate ways, with Charlie and Stella staying together.
- Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker, the team's mastermind and professional thief, who seeks revenge for his mentor's John Bridger's murder. 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 perfers the uses of technology to crack safes for various agencies, 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.
- 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. His methods are "old-fashioned," handled entirely by touch. Steve kills him during a shootout in the Alps.
- Jason Statham as "Handsome Rob", the team's "premier wheelman". According to Charlie, he once drove all the way from Los Angeles just so he could set the record for world's longest freeway chase, (a flashback scene shows Rob being chased down the freeway by dozens of police cars). In doing so, he got 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, stole the idea from him.
- Mos Def as "Left Ear", the teams "demolition and explosives expert". His name comes from an incident during his childhood when he put too many M80s 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 jeweller and conspiracy theorist who 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 member of a Ukrainian mob family and the cousin of 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.
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 of 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.
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.
Based on 177 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, The Italian Job has an overall approval rating of 73 percent, 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.
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.
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.
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 a March 2008 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."
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