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« Fathers, Sons and the Hulk | Main | Find and Replace Justice »

June 26, 2003

Moviegoing: "The Italian Job"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friedrich --

A critic I know refers to dumbass movies with no imagination or sensitivity as Meatball Movies. (Rennie Harlin is the acknowledged maestro of the Meatball Movie.) I guess I'd say that, since the new action caper flick "The Italian Job" does have one good idea (putting Morris Minis in chase scenes), the film doesn't quite qualify for a Meatball Award. But it sure comes close.

A guyflick to the max: heists, payback, engines, gizmos, chases, choppers, punches. Fewer wisecracks than usual, for some reason. Zero style. Mark Wahlberg, who's got less idea about acting than I do, as the gang's supposedly suave ringleader. And, sigh, no sex. The director was someone named F. Gary Gray, whose filmmaking technique boils down to "when in doubt, cut to an aerial shot and pump up the techno."

The movie has one huge plus, as least as far as I'm concerned: one of its stars is Charlize Theron, who I love watching. She seems to have a taste for appearing in the occasional guyflick, and when she does she's often a wonderful combo of b-movie moll-ishness, sleek yuppie competence, and messy emotionality. (If you've got a taste for this kind of thing, don't miss Charlize's performance in "Reindeer Games," a film that has a number of other genuine B-movie virtues too.) Here, she does a nice variation on her usual wised-up-but-still-sweet number, has two or three scenes where she gets to show off her proficiency at appearing congested with feelings, combines steely determination with looking ultra-kissable, and wears her Banana Republic, pony-tailed-but-all-business persona with panache. You go, Charlize -- and where you go, I consider it a pleasure and a privilege to follow.

To be fair, the audience (even the gals) seemed to enjoy the movie. Maybe the fantasy of getting even while getting away with millions was enough to win them over; or maybe many people simply crave the occasional really dumb and obvious but not overbearing bit of borderline-competent pop idiocy. In any case, as the levelheaded Wife correctly pointed out, "The Italian Job" was a lot easier to take than "Xmen 2" or "The Matrix Reloaded."

But please don't mistake this for a recommendation.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at June 26, 2003




Comments

I remember in the bus-stop ads for the film, which were in black and white or very muted color, the only element that grabbed your attention was Ms. Theron's long blonde hair. At the time, I thought, what would it have felt like to have been the hairdresser on the film. ("See, we don't have any real gimmick to grab the audience, so it's up to you to make Charlize memorable enough to bring in millions of filmgoers. Now cut that hair good, baby!") Man, talk about performance anxiety.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 26, 2003 10:09 AM



There must be something wrong with me. I generally like Meatball Movies better than I like Chick Flicks.

Posted by: Lynn S on June 26, 2003 10:18 AM



Michael, please indulge the jewish-brazilian accent of my writings, which from time to time will continue to appear here. Well, there are a certain number of girls, actresses and some models whom my weak memory seems to fix the name. Needless to say, they all have some quality, not necessarily beauty, that attracts me. Charlize Theron is certainly one of them...memorable, as worthy to be remembered, seen, followed and such...

Posted by: Z on June 26, 2003 11:34 AM



This "new" caper flim "The Italian Job" has to be a remake of a classic Michael Caine movie, also called "The Italian Job", which also "had the idea", which they actually thought of, of using Minis in a chase sequence. Original Minis, not the appalling Mini remake.

As with the remake of that other classic Caine, "Get Carter", the new version will have to go some to be as good. Stallone's version is not highly regarded here.

I realise that the economics of the movie industry mean that remaking good films makes more sense than remaking bad ones, but surely remaking the bad ones would be more logical. I mean, they NEED remaking. Remaking Get Carter is a totally superfluous thing to be doing, because it's great already.

And Lynn, if there's something wrong with you there's something wrong with me, because I now tend to prefer Chick Flicks.

Certainly the above remakes do not appeal.

Posted by: Brian Micklethwait on June 26, 2003 1:40 PM



Glad to meet other Charlize fans!

Hey Brian, Thanks for the info about the original, which I've obviously never seen, otherwise I'd have known that the Minis were present in it too. So it turns out the makers of the new "Italian Job" had zero ideas -- which means that the movie does qualify as a Meatball Movie. I've seen, to my shame, the remake of "Get Carter" too, and I guess I'd say that the remade "Italian Job" is more bearable than the remade "Get Carter." Ah, the kinds of discriminations we moviegoers are reduced to these days ... By the way, why makes the new Mini appalling? My spirits usually feel lifted when I see one pass by, but I'm not a car person.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 27, 2003 1:19 AM



Michael--concerning Mini's--I live with two Mini fans--the old ones, not the new glitzed, upscale market versions. They were essentially tin cans with motors that could go really fast, cheap and affordable. The new ones are like the new vesion of the VW Bug--cute, too expensive and not the same. Some things should be left alone.

But you have to be a car person to appreciate this.

Posted by: Deb on June 27, 2003 10:36 AM



It's a relief to see your unfavorable review of "The Italian Job". Every review I read hyped this movie. Are all the film critics in America on the industry payroll ? It seems like the more a movie is supposed to be a blockbuster, the more "critics" will sell it. Not just the hacks who deliver those "Amazing" one-liners for the ads, but anyone associated with a major media outlet. I couldn't believe all the reviewers giving the Matrix sequel 3 of 4 stars even when you could tell between the lines they weren't that impressed. If you know of other movie reviewers who aren't complete shills pass it on.

"The Italian Job" wanted to be a hip remake like "Oceans Eleven" but the writing and acting were not there. What was subtle and cool in "Oceans Eleven" was just bland and ridiculous in "The Italian Job." What is worse than killing a beloved family member ? Stealing someone's money, according to the writers of "The Italian Job" anyways. Not that the "The Italian Job" was a serious attempt at anything. With all the product placement in this film it must have been profitable even before it released. After a decent start it just became a tediously long commercial.

Posted by: Crackpot Matt on June 28, 2003 3:51 PM



Thanks Deb, I'd had no idea. Live in NYC, and you drop out of car culture almost entirely. I'm still getting used to electric windows, and am not entirely sure I like them.

Crackpot -- Redoing "Ocean's 11," that's it exactly and much better than I did here, many thanks. Are there really no reviewers or critics you find useful or enjoyable these days? I'm surprised by how many are really smart and good writers. My suspicion is that it isn't so much the critics and reviewers who are a problem, it's the editors, who insist on upbeatness, "selling," and positivity. They don't want to publish trustworthy reviews, they want a piece of that showbiz action. So they're going to publish big, hypey pieces about "Matrix Reloaded," often whether or not their critic or reviewer thinks the movie's any good or not. Sad thing is that the general public, which seems to love the sell, the promise, the ad campaign, the gossip, the buildup more than movies themselves, falls for it almost every time. But I'm gassing on: which critics or reviewers do you find useful or amusing these days? These days I'm reading and enjoying Elvis Mitchell at the NYT, David Ansen at Newsweek, and Joe Morgenstern at the WSJ. I love the way many of the Brits write, but despite that none of the current movie reviewers have made much of an impression on me. I don't know the Aussie or Kiwi scene. Any tips?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 29, 2003 1:41 AM



I don't have any tips for reviewers but I appreciate yours. A good movie can be a lot of fun and I will fall for the right amount of hype. Judging a book by the cover, when will I ever learn ? If I started dating Charlize Theron she'd probably turn out to be a bed-wetting psychopath who screams "Don't leave me!" every time I go to work.

Posted by: Crackpot Matt on June 30, 2003 1:18 PM






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