Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Italian Job

The Italian Job; crime comedy, UK/ Italy, 1969; D: Peter Collinson, S: Michael Caine, Noël Coward, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, Maggie Blye, Benny Hill

As soon as Charlie is released from prison, he already starts planning the next heist for his deceased boss - stealing Fiat's four million $ in gold from a convoy that goes through the streets of Turin. With the financial back-up from criminal Bridger and the assistance of computer expert Peach, Charlie assembles a crew despite the warnings of mafia boss Altabani. Charlie causes a traffic jam, steals the vehicle with the gold, transports the gold into three Mini vans and escapes with them while they are chased by the police. Outside, the Mini vans enter a bus and hide from the commotion.

From the hilarious sequence in "The Blues Brothers" up to the 'raw' pursuit across San Francisco in "Bullitt", few car chases caused such an interest among the cineasts as the finale in "The Italian Job". That light crime comedy is by today's standards rather overhyped and overrated, to such an extent that some critics even proclaimed its remake better than the original (!), yet even though Collinson's story consists just out of simplistic one-liners and sly preparations for the heist, it still has enough charm to ignite even the modern audience, thanks to the sharp performance by Michael Caine (in Lupin style) and the untypical 5-minute performance by comedian Benny Hill as the wacky computer expert Peach who is crazy for 'large' women. The one-note plot takes some time to ignite since only the sole heist and the now legendary 10-minute car chase sequence are truly stand out elements in it, but for a relaxed and correct film this does not burden it too much, not even the (in)famous open ending. The car chase is especially well choreographed, with a few brilliant 'down-to-earth' stunts, involving the three Mini vans in red, white and blue driving down the stairs, into the subway, across the rooftop, climbing up on the roof of an opera and even passing through a shallow river, all the while the police is chasing them. It was nominated for a Golden Globe as best foreign language film. 


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