Saturday, June 1, 2013
Review: Michael Caine Still Cool in "The Italian Job"
The Italian Job (1969)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK; Languages: English and Italian
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Peter Collinson
WRITER: Troy Kennedy Martin
PRODUCERS: Stanley Baker and Michael Deeley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Douglas Slocombe
EDITOR: John Trumper
COMPOSER: Quincy Jones
Golden Globe nominee
CRIME with elements of action and comedy
Starring: Michael Caine, Noël Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, John Le Mesurier, Fred Emney, Rossano Brazzi, Maggie Blye, George Innes, Irene Handl and Harry Baird
The subject of this movie review is The Italian Job, a 1969 British caper and crime film directed by Peter Collinson. Starring Michael Caine and featuring a soundtrack composed by Quincy Jones, it is a beloved film in Great Britain.
Before it was the remade into a 2003 summer hit, The Italian Job was a cult favorite caper film starring Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, a clever criminal who adopts a complicated heist plan formulated by a recently murdered colleague. The film is a nice crime film with an air of subdued comedy and some short, but exciting action sequences. In fact, the film has aged quite well and, except for the ending, stands with today’s crime thrillers.
Croker, just out of prison, hatches a plan to steal a huge cache of Chinese gold ($4 million) en route to Turin, Italy to be used as collateral for a Fiat automobile plant. The necessary diversion for the snatch and grab comes courtesy of huge traffic jam that Charlie and his gang plan to cause during an all-important Italy-Great Britain soccer match. Croker eventually convinces Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward), an incarcerated criminal genius, to fiancé and equip the criminal enterprise, all from his jail cell. In spite of all their planning, the hitch is that the Mafia doesn’t want the Englishmen to steal the gold, and are willing to commit murder to stop them.
The film is pleasant, but it’s a bit more than just a diversion. Michael Caine is charming, and while he is ostensibly the lead and his character directs the heist, neither the script nor the director gives the audience much time to really get to know Charlie Croker outside of some witty lines. Actually, the film’s focus is almost totally on the criminal enterprise, and the characters are just checker pieces in the story. Other than Caine and Coward’s characters, no other players really stand out except for a few seconds here or there.
The ending is very problematic, and the 2003 remake (in a sense) picks up where the original left off, although in a more spiritual than literal sense. The remake also vastly improves on the original in giving the characters more room to breath. Still, there is nothing like this film, and fans of caper and heist films should like this, especially as it features the golden age of the young Michael Caine.
6 of 10
1970 Golden Globes, USA: 1 nomination: “Best English-Language Foreign Film”