Lurking behind a criminally bad title is a surprisingly tight, clever, twisty heist tale, loosely based on real events and crisply directed by Australian-born, New Zealand-based filmmaker Roger Donaldson. 1971, London: South London used-car dealer Terry Leather (Jason Statham), is always looking to move his family up in the world, and isn't averse to...read more
Lurking behind a criminally bad title is a surprisingly tight, clever, twisty heist tale, loosely based on real events and crisply directed by Australian-born, New Zealand-based filmmaker Roger Donaldson.
1971, London: South London used-car dealer Terry Leather (Jason Statham), is always looking to move his family up in the world, and isn't averse to shady business. So when Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), who rode her razor-blade cheekbones out of the old neighborhood and into the jet set, comes along with a proposition, he listens. She has an inside line on a major security lapse at the Baker Street branch of Lloyd's Bank: The alarms have been shut down while security experts try to correct a vexing, persistent technical glitch. An enterprising crew, she says, could rent the failed leather-goods shop two doors down, tunnel directly into the safe-deposit vault and loot the boxes with impunity. Though initially dubious – robbing banks is a several notches up from the kind of crime with which Terry and his mates are familiar -- Terry takes the plunge and rounds up his pals: Frustrated photographer Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore); aspiring actor and part-time porno star Dave (Daniel Mays); con artist Guy (James Faulkner); and Bambas (Alki David), who actually knows something about digging tunnels and breaking through reinforced concrete floors. Sweet-natured mechanic Eddie (Michael Jimson) is posted on a neighboring roof with a walkie-talkie, charged with keeping the others apprised of street-level developments. The plan is low-tech but solid: The devil is in the complications. These complications include Martine's debt to suave MI5 agent Tim Everett (Richard Lintern), who wants the orgy photos of a wayward royal contained in the safe deposit box of a notorious thug turned black-power activist (Peter de Jersey); the fact that a Soho smut mogul and an upscale madame (David Suchet, Sharon Maughan) also have boxes of incriminating materials in the vault; and the presence of a ham radio operator (Angus Wright) who accidentally tunes in to the gang's frequency mid-job.
That UK newspapers abruptly stopped covering the real-life crime they dubbed "The Walkie-Talkie Robbery" after four days -– a robbery that netted the contemporary equivalent of millions –- lends credence to speculation that it was the subject of a "D Notice" -- a government gag order in the name of national security. And that, in turn, opens the doors to all manner of speculation: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' screenplay is a deft blend of fact (including several of the more implausible turns), rumor and supposition, and Donaldson keeps all their narrative plates in the air while drawing a surprisingly warm and nuanced performance from Statham.
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