The Italian Job review by Mike Long

I'm not a big fan of the idea of remakes, but I feel that re-visiting a film can be justified under certain circumstances. But, when I think about remakes, I do not think about Mark Wahlberg. Apparently, I'm in the minority here, as Wahlberg has appeared in Planet of the Apes, The Truth About Charlie (a remake of 1963's Charade. Don't worry if you didn't see The Truth About Charlie, nobody else did either.), and his most recent effort was a remake of the popular Michael Caine 1969 vehicle, The Italian Job. Can Wahlberg take the place of one of the world's most popular and prolific actors?

(POSSIBLE SPOILERS: It's impossible to describe the plot of The Italian Job without giving away some important details, so read at your own risk. Of course, if you've seen the trailer...more on that in a moment.) The Italian Job opens with a group of thieves pulling off a heist in Venice. This eclectic group includes, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), the charismatic leader of the group; John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), Charlie's mentor; Left Ear (Mos Def), demolition expert; Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), the driver, Lyle (Seth Green) the computer expert (who claims that he actually invented Napster); and Steve (Edward Norton), who arranges outside help. This group steals $35 million in gold bars, but as they are making their getaway, Steve pulls a double-cross, killing John, and leaving the others for dead.

The story then leaps ahead one year. Charlie organizes a meeting of the surviving members of the gang in Philadelphia. He has tracked Steve to Los Angeles, and wants to get revenge. He brings John's daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) into the group to help. Like her father, Stella is an expert safe-cracker (although, she uses her skills to help people), and will be an integral part of the plan. The group then travels to L.A., where they observe Steve (in his newly purchased mansion) and begin to formulate a plan to get the gold back and give Steve his come-uppance. But, Steve is no push-over and it's going to take an incredibly elaborate scheme, and the crippling of L.A., to complete the job.

The Italian Job is that rare film which falls squarely into the "Very good, but not great" category. The film is polished, well-made, and compelling, but it's never able to punch its way through to greatness. Director F. Gary Gray has constructed a very tight movie which never drags. The script by Donna and Wayne Powers (Deep Blue Sea) is filled with very clever twists and turns. But, despite the fact that each character is given a backstory, they come off as cliched and superficial. The script's biggest flaw is that we learn so little about Steve, save for the fact that he's bad.

Still, this is the kind of film in which it is very east to overlook the story problems and simply enjoy the ride. The cast are all good and seem to be having a great time. Wahlberg is his usually brooding, stoic self, but he brings a necessary confidence to the role. Seth Green steals the show, as he tells everyone about his Napster anger. The Italian Job features two incredible action sequences, both of which clearly make the film worth the price of admission. This is a the kind of sleek and stylish thriller which is great entertainment, but instantly forgettable.

The Italian Job breaks onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film is being offered in two separate releases, one full-frame, the other widescreen. For this review, the widescreen version was viewed. The DVD features an anamorphic transfer and the film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. This is yet another stellar DVD transfer from Paramount. The image is very sharp and clear, showing few if any defects. There is virtually no grain here, and there are no defects from the source material. There are some minor problems with edge-enhancement, but these are scant. The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track sounds fantastic, as it provides clear dialogue and an abundance of surround-sound effects. The track offers a great deal of bass response and the film's creative sound design comes through loud and clear here.

For a recent, major release, The Italian Job DVD is light on extras. This is the first major release that I've reviewed in a long time which didn't have an audio commentary. There are 5 featurettes though. The first is entitled "Pedal to the Metal: The Making of The Italian Job". This 18-minute segment is the typical glossy studio "making of" featurette, but it is full of good information about the movie and contains an abundance of behind-the-scenes footage. Also, the actors supply many good quotes about their experiences on the movie. Screenwriters Donna and Wayne Powers are featured in the 6 minute, "Putting the Words on the Page for The Italian Job", in which they discuss the screenwriting process and the influence of the original film on this remake. Unfortunately, neither of the Powers are very dynamic speakers. In "The Italian Job - Driving School" (5 minutes), we see how driving instructor Steve Kelso taught the cast to handle the Mini-Coopers in the film. The Minis get more attention in "The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job" (8 minutes) where the producers discuss how the cars were customized and utilized for the movie. "High Octane: Stunts from The Italian Job" (8 minutes), gives an overview of the film's major stunt sequences, featuring yet more footage of the Minis. There are 6 deleted scenes, which are all brief and offer nothing new. Finally, we have the theatrical trailer for The Italian Job, which has been letterboxed at 1.78:1. Whatever you do, DO NOT watch the trailer before viewing the movie. This trailer wins the award for containing the most spoilers ever! They essentially took the entire film and cut it down to 2 1/2 minutes, including every major plot point! Once again, don't watch the trailer first. You've been warned.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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