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The Italian Job

The Italian Job remakes a late-'60s Michael Caine movie that's relatively unknown in the U.S., but in Britain has a cultural importance just below Shakespeare and the Magna Carta. The last time that happened, we got Sylvester Stallone in Get Carter. This works out a little better, but its chances of earning hushed reverence in pubs on either side of the ocean looks pretty slim. Perhaps better titled Acceptable Summer Action Movie 2003, the remake opens well as Donald Sutherland and Mark Wahlberg lead a band of colorful criminals who include Edward Norton, Mos Def, Seth Green, and British tough Jason Statham through a heist involving a safe filled with gold bars and a chase through the canals of Venice. The bonhomie comes to a crushing end, however, when a traitor in the group dispatches Sutherland–who logs only enough screen time to dispense a few fatherly aphorisms–and absconds with the gold. (Keen-eyed viewers might be tipped off by the cast member with the villainous mustache.) One year later, Wahlberg joins forces with Sutherland's daughter Charlize Theron (a professional safecracker, as luck would have it) and the surviving team members to exact revenge. Though it's considerably less fun when it moves on to its non-Italian jobs, shifting the action first to Philadelphia and then to Los Angeles, The Italian Job almost gets by on its well-chosen cast and F. Gary Gray's slick direction. Wahlberg is no great shakes in the lead, and Norton looks kind of sleepy, but Def, Green, and Statham make such charismatic sidekicks that it's easy to wish the movie were about them. Instead, it's mostly about a frenetically, gracelessly staged climax in which a helicopter, a small fleet of Mini Coopers, and some computer hackery send L.A. spinning into chaos. Even if it weren't a remake, The Italian Job would still look startlingly unoriginal, but in a summer that promises plenty of sold-out showings, it could be the season's breakout pretty-okay-second-choice film.


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