Hotel Cinema: The Italian Job

By: Jimmy Leppert

Playing on A&E Saturday the 11th at 8pm EST, here’s a brief look at The Italian Job and why it should be the movie your team watches in a shady hotel this weekend.

The Italian Job, from 1993, is one of the first re-makes that started off more than a decade of Hollywood recreating some of their most timeless classics. Has Hollywood transitioned to re-making older films because it will continuously bring in large amounts of money for them at the box office, even if the film is down-right horrible? Are they the only kind of film that can combat the comic-book machine? Or do they re-make these films because writers are just out of ideas? Sooner or later, we’ll see Citizen Kane with Vin Diesel, and instead of a sled that he treasures on his dying breath, it is instead a car with ridiculous rims and an engine unlike any we’ve ever seen before.

The trailer itself is rubbish. It gives away the twist that hits you early in the film, that Edward Norton is the bad guy here. The bad guy is a role that Norton plays extremely well – think The Illusionist vs The PrestigeFight Club (kinda, maybe?), The Bourne Legacy, and Birdman. But in none of the those roles does Norton excel as much as he does in this role. I think what makes him so fantastic in this role is that damn mustache. Have you ever known someone, in real life, that has that squirrely, thin-trimmed mustache like he sports in this movie and have them not be an asshole? He’s perfect!

The other main plot the trailer gives away is that Donald Sutherland dies. You may know him better as the guy who’s out to get Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies. But he’s great! The fact that he’s killed off, and not Mark Whalberg or Seth Green, is a little sad I think. He’s on Canada’s Walk of Fame for god’s sake! The man deserves more than to be killed off before we really meet all of our stars.

Besides those two, the trailer gives you a brief introduction to each of the actors’ characters. Mark Whalberg is the muscled-out mastermind; what an unfamiliar role for him! Charlize Theron is the main female character, and like most female characters she only functions because she’s motivated by/for a man. Edward Norton the villan, Donald Sutherland the elderly figure the team rallies behind, Jason Statham has the dumb but good-looking guy who likes cars and other manly-things, and has had sex (see 17 seconds into the trailer), Seth Green is cast in an unusual role as the geek of the bunch, and Mos Def as both the only person of color that appears for any extended screen time in the movie and brings with him the background to match that classification.

All of these actors, though, have had a fantastic career after this movie, sky-rocketing into major parts in other Hollywood movies. It’s a far-cry from the 2001 reboot of Ocean’s Eleven, which sky-rocketed only Matt Damon and Casey Affleck’s career, but also contained Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Bernie Mac to out-fit it with stars. Each one of the major actors’ IMDB page in The Italian Job has a movie that comes after this that is so much more important to their careers than this one, but they’re all connected by this single movie. Norton had the Hulk movie, Wes Anderson movies, and the recent Birdman. Statham has Death Race and the Expendable franchise. Theron had Monster that same year, and Hancock, Prometheus, and the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road after. Finally, Whalberg has the goddamn Fighter and Departed to his name, along with Ted, Shooter, and other movies that could probably be featured here in the future.

Back to the movie itself though, and how brilliant it is. Rotten Tomatoes has a blurb summarizing the rating of each movie (this one earned a 73%), and for The Italian Job, it reads: “Despite some iffy plot elements, The Italian Job succeeds in delivering an entertaining modern take on the original 1969 heist film, thanks to a charismatic cast.” That summary reads “Let’s watch this movie in a hotel to relax.” Going through them, point-by-point:

  • Iffy plot elements? Perfect, we can talk during the movie.
  • Re-make of an old movie? That old alumni that creepily followed us back to the hotel will have something else to complain about besides how the team played today.
  • Charismatic cast? I think charismatic is an understatement. Every word that appears on the page, and all of their synonyms, would only scratch the surface of this cast. What a cast it is.

Briefly touching on that iffy-plot that Rotten Tomatoes says the critics have labeled this movie, lets think that one through for a second. If your Saturday night’s after a tournament contain beer, fast-food, or the occasional candy-bar, you shouldn’t care about the plot. If your Saturday night’s after a tournament don’t involve strategy discussion for the next morning, you shouldn’t care about the plot. If your Saturday night’s after a tournament consist of one room doing homework, and the other doing anything else, than you shouldn’t care about the plot. The fact that on Wikipedia, I have to scroll to read through the entirety says a lot about it. It tells me it’s dense enough to need a lot of words, but maybe not too dense that I’m going to have to watch it again to know what the hell is going on.

So this Saturday night, when your team is back from dinner, and cramped onto a few Queen-mattresses with all eyes on the TV, may I suggest The Italian Job, airing 8pm EST on A&E.


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