Hollywood Product: The Bank Job

Heist picture doesn't make clean getaway

Genre: Heist picture

The pitch: In 1971 London, a dodgy car dealer (Jason Statham, aka The Transporter) and his gang of amateurs plan to rob a bank vault of safety-deposit boxes, unaware that their caper is camouflage for a government plot to pilfer some Royal blackmail material.

Money shots: The team's "thermal lance" burns through the vault floor like a Roman candle. The heist includes a tightly edited cat-and-mouse game involving a ham-radio operator. The lookout's walkie-talkie falls spectacularly off a roof at the least opportune moment. When Statham finally cuts loose and throws punches, he gets a weapon by kicking a brick right out of a wall.

Body count: The film's second half features three deaths — a shooting, a slashing and a smothering (via plastic bag) — due to the complicated intrusion of such underworld figures as a drug smuggler/black radical (Peter De Jersey) and "The Porn King of Soho" (David Suchet).

Fashion statements: It's swinging London in the 1970s, so expect dashikis and matching shirt-and-tie combinations that look like wallpaper. A peace-symbol charm bracelet provides a key plot point. In his black tuxedo, Richard Lintern's spy guy looks credibly like Sean Connery in Dr. No (if only the actor had more than one expression). Statham's character is named "Terry Leather," and the first time we see him, he wears — wait for it — a leather jacket.

Flesh factor: So many early scenes involve strip clubs, posh bordellos and topless beaches that The Bank Job has more T&A than a "Sopranos" marathon. The brothels also feature lots of bondage gear and kinky underpants.

Best line: "It's probably the last gang who tried to take the bank," remarks one of the "good" guys when they accidentally drill into a Black Plague-era crypt full of skeletons.

Worst line: "You've opened Pandora's box, you dumb prick!" is probably the most memorable example of the script's overheated dialogue. Arguably worse is the trailer's tag line, "Some things are better left unstolen." (Maybe most things?)

Inside joke: In an early scene, ex-model and schemer Martine (Saffron Burrows) drives up in a Mini Cooper, perhaps evoking the getaway cars of The Italian Job.

MP3-to-be: The Storys have a cameo as a wedding band and over the closing credits crank out a crunchy version of, inevitably, "Money (That's What I Want)."

Political subtext: Based on an actual robbery and other scandals of the era, The Bank Job portrays an England shot through with rampant government and police corruption as well as post-colonial unrest, implying that the system deserves to get taken down a peg by some working-class blokes.

The bottom line: Some crisply edited scenes of safe-cracking and escaping fail to rescue The Bank Job's convoluted screenplay, which lunges in too many directions for director Roger Donaldson to control. The poor British man's Bruce Willis, Statham steals the movie, but The Bank Job doesn't get away clean. 2 stars