The Italian Job (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

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 (“Solaris”, “Cape Fear”) 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 of “The Italian Job” 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 Bridger (Charlize Theron, perhaps the most beautiful actress working today), 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 Negotiagor” 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. Whalberg 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 by “The Italian Job” 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?

One of the first movies I saw on HBO HD was, believe it or not, “The Italian Job” and I immediately compared it to my standard DVD. I noticed little things here and there and an overall sharpness to the picture, but I can remember thinking that HD didn’t look that good. Ok, well I might have to change my opinion because when I popped in this HD-DVD version, it looks flawless. Granted, it’s a rather new movie and with all the space on an HD disc, there’s very little room for error (no pun intended). The image is amazing, with the detail in every scene amazing. In some traffic scenes you can read each car’s license plate, you can tell the time on Steve’s (Edward Norton) – these are things that won’t jump right out at you but once you get spoiled by a HD-DVD, it’s hard to go any other route. Naturally, colors are strong and vibrant. Edge enhancement is not an issue and if you want the best-looking version of “The Italian Job” that’s available, this is it.

Audio: How does it sound?

Paramount has done a great job with their first couple of waves of HD-DVD. Not only do they include the Dolby Digital Plus mix, but a number of them contain a DTS soundtrack as well. When you’re talking standard DVD, the DTS is a more robust soundtrack 99 times out of 100, however the Dolby Digital Plus actually has the advantage here. Both tracks are very active and give a good 360 degree representation of how a good soundtrack should sound. Vocals are clear and concise and the surrounds make their presence known very early on and never let go (the ending helicopter chase scene is a great example of how well surrounds can factor in). Either way you go, you’ll end up a winner here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This HD-DVD version contains a variety of supplements and are sure to please any fan of the movie. Essentially there is a handful of featurettes that focus on different aspects of the movie (stunts, making of, and “The Italian Job” Driving school). While these have been done and redone (and most likely will be done again), I found that the Stunts and Driving School were two of the more interesting features. Driving plays a big part in the movie (with the “trendy” Cooper cars no less) as do stunts. Both of these show how sequences were filmed and edited for the final film. Interesting to say the least. Six deleted scenes are shows, but it’s obvious as to why they were left on the cutting room floor and the original theatrical trailer is included as well. So while not stuffing so many supplements down our throat as to choke us, “The Italian Job” has just enough to whet our appetites. If the original is more to your liking, that has many supplements as well. A pretty good little film, check your brains at the door and you’ll enjoy it.

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