Plot: What’s it about?
The Italian Job is yet another in a series of movies to be re-made. I suppose the question we have to ask ourselves is this: does a movie really need to be done again? Well, the answer is tricky and everyone’s got their own opinion. Sometimes movies that are made again (same storyline and all) are better than the original (Ocean’s Eleven); sometimes it’s hard to say and sometimes we wonder why we didn’t just stick with the original and let a good movie speak for itself (Psycho). In any case, Hollywood is going to do what they want to do: make movies that make money. Right? The Italian Job represents somewhat of a comeback for Mark Wahlberg, who was the “it” boy a few years back with Boogie Nights but then kind of fell off the map. While the rest of the cast has had its successes and failures, we know they’re all in place because that’s what we do nowadays. Movies with an entourage are so much more impressive and fun than just focusing the action on one man (unless it’s someone like Harrison Ford or Tom Cruise, but even they are fallible). However, the movie was somewhat of a surprise hit so they did something right. Did anyone call Michael Caine?
At the very heart is a story of revenge, pure and simple. We open with a carefully thought-out plan to steal $35 million in gold bars in Italy (hence the name of the movie). The plan goes off without a hitch and the members of the team stand to become filthy rich, though they’re even not quite sure what to do with all of their newfound riches. This is until Steve (Edward Norton) pulls a fast one and decides to take all of the money for himself (killing a member of the crew in the process). Believing them to be dead, Steve gets away. We flash forward to one year later and the surviving members of the gang are still hell-bent on getting even. They’ve learned that Steve is living it up in Los Angeles and occasionally sells some of his stash when he needs some quick cash (“quick cash” – being a few hundred thousand dollars). As they recruit Stella (Charlize Theron), an expert safecracker, she is the key to help them get what is rightfully theirs. Naturally, we don’t think it will be as easy as knocking on the door and asking for the money back, where’s the fun in that. But the plan that the gang comes up with is almost too smart for their own good?
Director F. Gary Gray is better-known for his work behind the camera on films like Friday, The Negotiator and Set it Off; but he’s done a pretty good job here. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s good as there would be plenty of reasons to pick the film apart. As it stands, the movie seems to flow at a pretty decent pace and has enough action in it to keep most anyone interested. Wahlberg plays the title role of Charlie Croker with a crew that includes Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham (The Transporter and Snatch) and Seth Green who adds plenty of comic relief, sometime even when it’s not needed. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and though I’ve not seen the original, I plan to see where the two differ. One thing is for sure, if we’re to remake all of Michael Caine’s old action films from the early 70’s, let’s not do anything more with Get Carter. Ok? If you set your mind for some mindless action and eye candy (in the form of Charlize Theron), then odds are you’ll have a good time.
Video: How does it look?
Oddly, I was perusing Paramount Plus a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across this. I’d seen it several times, but my antiquated HD-DVD disc is, well, somewhere in my basement. That’s OK, as we now have this film ins 4K and does it ever look good. I’ve always felt this film wasn’t really lacking in the visuals department. The opening sequence in Vienna, to the mountains of Switzerland and finally “back home” in Los Angeles. The uptick in picture quality can widely be attributed to the HDR, which gives the overall image more depth and dimension. Obviously, the 4K image benefits from greater detail as well. Broad, sweeping visuals abound as do the obligatory car chase scenes, but it’s nice (and about time) to finally get this in 4K.
Audio: How does it sound?
Though it might seem ripe for a Dolby Atmos track, I was content with the same DTS HD Master Audio mix found on the Blu-ray from years ago. The score is upbeat, provides tension and sounds great emanating from every speaker you own. Vocals are sharp and centered, I even had no problems hearing Wahlberg’s lines of dialogue (he tends to mumble and be pretty soft-spoken). Directional effects provide a battering array of sonics that will whiz by you like a Mini Cooper full of gold bars. I don’t really get that reference either, I just felt the need to use that as an analogy. Nevertheless, though it might disappoint some folks, this track is nothing to scoff at.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is a “Paramount Special” in that we essentially get a 4K disc bundled in with the pre-existing Blu-ray. Translation: no new supplements. But what we’ve got isn’t bad.
- Pedal to the Metal: The Making of The Italian Job – Essentially the obligatory “making of…” featurette that has interviews with the cast and crew, the genesis of the remake and everything in between.
- Putting the Words on the Page for The Italian Job – The writers discuss the “need” to remake this and spot some differences between this and the original.
- The Italian Job – Driving School – Again, pretty self-explanatory in that we see the crew as they try and do their best to handle those Minis.
- The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job – Speaking of which, we get a look at the little automobiles in question.
- High Octane: Stunts from The Italian Job – A fairly brief featurette on the stunts used in the movie.
- Deleted Scenes – Half a dozen are shown, but once viewed it’s pretty clear why they were cut.
The Bottom Line
This is one of those films that if I see it while channel surfing, I’ll watch it. I enjoyed it and I always have. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why a sequel never emerged, but given that the cast is still in relatively good shape it could still happen. Paramount’s new 4K disc is a modest improvement over the Blu-ray, but that’s all you get. If that’s not important, then I’d keep the existing Blu-ray.