The Italian Job (1969)

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The Italian Job (1969) Movie Review

Only the British and Steven Soderbergh seem to be able to make funny caper movies. The Italian Job -- the original one, that is -- is a quite funny, minor classic of the genre, elevated from midnight movie fare thanks to the presence of a spot-on Michael Caine.

The film's setup is pretty staid: Caine's Charlie Croker is straight outta prison, and he's right back at the crime game the moment he's released. Thanks to guidance from boss Bridger (Noel Coward, appearing primarily in films given to Caine), the job is meticulously planned and staffed: Ultimately the gig is to cause a giant traffic jam in the city of Turin, steal $4 million in gold from an armored car, and escape using clever non-roadway surfaces so the cops can't follow them.

Ultimately the planning for the job -- an hour of narrative wherein a dozen or so characters are introduced to us -- is a bit of a bore. But once the job itself is underway, the film truly shines. The Italian Job is never remembered as a character study or a twisting caper film. It's a movie with a fantastic heist and car chase at the end; the three Minis that race across Turin's rooftops and through its sewers have become iconic additions to film history. The chase is so good it makes the rest of the film pale in comparison. Oh, and the abrupt ending (intended to leave the movie open for a sequel that was never made) is a fantastic throwback that you never see today (though I suspect Kill Bill Volume 1 will give us something similar).

Coward's appearance in the film is as disposable as Benny Hill's (he plays, of all things, a computer expert who just happens to have a fetish for large-breasted women and who often appears in sped-up scenes). The many supporting characters and odd tangents serve simply to give the movie more than 30 minutes of running time -- dazzling though it may be.

On DVD, producer Michael Deeley offers a commentary track along with Matthew Field, who wrote a book about the movie. The other notable extra is one deleted scene -- a stylized part of the car chase meant to emulate a ballet and shot on an ice rink. It's funny but its reason for deletion from the film proper is obvious, as it would have slowed down the movie considerably.


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The Italian Job (1969) Rating

" Good "


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