Film4: Wednesday 13 May, 11.15pm
The best thing to come out of British cinema’s mockney wideboy gangster boom was not Guy Ritchie’s barrel-scraping approach to film-making. Nor was it the ugly mug of Vinnie Jones, football bad-boy turned glowering screen heavy. No, the best thing by far to emerge from a bunch of cartoony and clichéd flicks is Jason Statham, a Londoner so self-assured and unpretentious he never bothered hiding his thinning barnet. Since his Lock Stock debut, Statham’s forged a career as a convincing hard man in the Transporter and Crank series. And The Bank Job shows he’s got some acting chops, too. Hired on the quiet by establishment suits with something to hide, slinky Saffron Burrows entices east London car dealer Statham into a Baker Street bank job in 1971. In hock to loansharks, Statham’s looking for the big score that’ll make sense of everything. And the bank’s security system is down for a week. On top of everything, Statham’s crew aren’t really bank robbers – maybe that’s why they’ll get away with it. Inevitably remindful of the joky heist capers Big Deal on Madonna Street and Small Time Crooks, this larky slab of nostalgia has a flavour all its own. A tang that’s not confined to the Senior Service cigs and Smith’s crisps in transparent packets. The permissive 70s have seldom seemed so pervy. Strip bars and stag parties, knocking shops and kinky toffs, bent coppers and hanky panky all over the place – lots of sex, please, we’re British! And the thieves appear to be the only honest bunch in London. If only they can get their walkie-talkie protocol sorted out: “No names, Eddie!” “Sorry, Dave!” Tartly scripted by Likely Lads veterans Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement, The Bank Job claims up front to be based on a true story. An unfeasibly neat conclusion casts doubt on that. But whether it’s an extremely cheeky true story or a super-sleazy Sweeney episode, it’s great fun and much more satisfying than the self-important approach of something like Scandal. Never mind its dowdy title, The Bank Job is a wee gem among the mockney dross that continues to wreck the reputation of British crime capers. The American action flick Safe (Channel 5,Sunday at 10pm) has a title even less enticing. But it’s further evidence that the no-nonsense Statham is perfect for the role of remorseless avenger. The Russians think he’s a New York garbage man. “You got bad information,” he tells them. “I never collected garbage. I disposed of it.” Jason Statham. What’s not to love?