Tag Archives: car chase

The Italian Job (1969 & 2003)

4 Aug

There are movies that really succeed at capturing a certain time period and a very specific attitude, and one of the finest examples of this may be the 1969 British crime classic, The Italian Job. It’s cool, funny, and captures the time and place very well while also succeeding as a really entertaining caper flick. After getting a pretty good game for the Playstation 1, the movie got revisited once again in 2003 with a remake by F. Gary Gray. It’s makes me happy to say that both films work very well together and a lot of fun can be had with the original and also the remake.

Of course, we’re going to start with the 1969 classic.

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After being released from a stretch in prison, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) has a chance to turn his life around and fit in with normal society, but he’s just too good at what he does. With a plan already started by his recently deceased mentor and friend Roger (Rossano Brazzi), Croker starts getting a crew together to go to Turin, Italy to steal $4 million and escape to Geneva. None of this would be possible without a lot of funding, so Croker goes to Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward), who runs his criminal empire from prison, to finance it. With the money and the crew ready, the team heads to Turin to finish the job, but the mafia is on to them and will stop at nothing to keep the $4 million in Italy.

Since the time of its release, The Italian Job has grown into an iconic film filled with imagery that is immediately recognizable. Even before I saw this movie, I’d see a Mini Cooper drive down the street and my mind would go straight to The Italian Job. Maybe I just think about movies too much. Anyway, there’s plenty of great reasons why this film has achieved this status. One of the biggest reasons is the famous chase scene involving the three Mini Coopers making their escape out of Turin. This scene is reason enough to watch this movie, and it ranks as one of the greatest car chases ever filmed. It’s a blast to watch and it’s probably the best example of precision stunt driving in a movie. It almost seems like a scene that’s existed since movies first began, but it had it’s beginnings here in an action movie that never knew the legacy it would create.

While the action sequences are excellent, The Italian Job is also well known for its characters, writing, and soundtrack. The characters are a lot of fun, and Michael Caine and Noël Coward play the two leads with glee. Caine is perfect as the criminal everyone has to love. He’s cool, stylish, and has a temper that is good for a laugh. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie actually are played by Coward, whose Mr. Bridger practically runs the prison that he’s held in. The soundtrack by Quincy Jones is very cool and extremely catchy. I challenge anyone to listen to the theme song and have it not get stuck in your head.

To put it simply, the original version of The Italian Job is a super cool movie and has some of the most iconic and memorable scenes in film history. I honestly don’t think anyone working on this movie knew the legacy this movie would have, but it’s one of those movies that has to be seen to understand why it deserves such a status as a classic.

Let’s move on to 2003 to look at the remake. Normally, I’m not too thrilled about remakes, but the cast and F. Gary Gray in the director’s chair is enough to make someone interested.

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Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) is the head of a gang of very talented thieves (Jason Statham, Mos Def, and Seth Green) who along with Charlie’s mentor, John Bridger (Donal Sutherland) and their inside man Steve (Edward Norton) pull off a major heist involving $34 million of gold and escaping Venice. The job goes off without a hitch, but the gang is quickly double crossed by Steve who steals all the gold and leaves the gang for dead in the Alps. What Steve doesn’t know is that the gang got out of the mountains alive and want their gold back. Charlie enlists the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), a safe cracker working on the other side of the law, to help them with their heist. This time, it isn’t about the money, it’s about payback.

This movie has a lot going for it and it’s honestly a pretty good movie. F. Gary Gray is a director that really has an idea of what he wants and handles action and suspense very well, which is necessary for a movie like this. In fact, there are elements of this movie that are handled better than in the original. The main improvement is the gang that Charlie’s the head of. In the original, we never really get a chance to know anyone that’s part of the heist other than Michael Caine’s character. In the remake, they’re all established as close friends, have distinct personalities, and all have something important to do during the heists. The actors have great chemistry and there is plenty of room for comedy and drama throughout the movie.

The action scenes are really cool and pay good homage to the original film. Believe it or not, the scene with the Mini Coopers is a little underwhelming compared to the first movie, but there are plenty of other scenes to make up for it. One cool scene happens in the beginning as Statham and Green are making a quick escape through Venetian canals on a speed boat. Any scene with Edward Norton is also very memorable. His villainous character just oozes with smug confidence that just makes you wanna slap that grin off his face.

While the 2003 version of The Italian Job is a really well made and fun movie, I still prefer the fast paced wackiness of the original. Still, this is a remake that works very well for many different reasons. The most important thing is that while it honors the legacy of the original, it stands alone as its own movie.

So there you have it. The legacy of The Italian Job is definitely a strong one, and only a movie that good could create something like it. Any fan of the action/crime genre should definitely give both of these movies a look. They’re really cool and a whole lot of fun.

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Bullitt – Review

11 Jan

Now we’re talkin’. Mac. Bandito. The King of Cool. Of course, I’m talking about Steve McQueen, an action star that even over 30 years after his death, he’s still recognized as one of the coolest, iciest actors in film. The movie that took his career and made it international was the 1968 cop/crime film Bullitt. Now, what’s cool about Bullitt is that it is the main influence for action movies of the 1970s through the 1990s. Think of any huge action movie and it could probably be related to this one somehow. Even though this is one of the most influential and important films in film history, it hasn’t aged well in a lot of ways making it sometimes a bore to sit through.

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Lt. Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is the kind of cop that will do anything that needs to be done in order to finish a case the way he wants it finished. When a seedy politician Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) enlists the aid of Bullitt to protect a witness testifying against the Chicago mob, Frank just thinks it’s going to be a by the books protection. When the witness ends up dead and another cop severely injured, Bullitt takes to the streets to hunt down and find those responsible, but the conspiracy is thicker than Bullitt could have imagined.

Let me start by saying this, I dare you to watch the Dirty Harry movies or the Lethal Weapon movies or even play games in the Driver and Grand Theft Auto series and not think of Bullitt. This is widely considered to be the first modern cop/action film with many others trying to copy the formula that is laid out in this film. This is a movie that demands respect because of the influence that it had on films to come. When this movie came out, it must have blown audiences away showing a much more gritty and urban look that wasn’t really used in movies of this kind in America. Still, there are things about this movie that just haven’t aged very well which makes it kind of odd to watch it almost 50 years after it was originally released.

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The movie starts out really good with McQueen’s Frank Bullitt the definition of a hard boiled cop. He does things his own way and gets them done, which I love seeing. Characters that break the rules to do the right thing is just fun for me, I don’t know. So things are going great and then the second act becomes very wandery. I see this a lot in movies from the 1960s, with musical interludes and various shots of the environment. That was sort of the style of the time, but it really brings Bullitt to a skidding halt after a great first act. The third act kind of picks up again, but I was sort of losing interest in the movie by then. Shave off maybe 20 minutes, and we would’ve been good.

I can’t finish this review without talking about the famous car chase. There were car chases before in movies, with the Keystone Cops coming to mind first for some reason, but many people say that the car chase in Bullitt was the first modern car chase. Who knows, without the chase scene in Bullitt we might not have gotten that awesome car chase in The French Connection just a few years later. Seeming to go all through San Francisco, the car chase lasts 10 minutes with the only soundtrack being the revving of the engines. It’s a blast watching the cars fly over the hilly landscape of the city and is definitely one of the best car chases ever filmed.

Bullitt is one of the most influential modern movies that laid the groundwork for action/crime movies to come in the 1970s through the 1990s. That being said, it hasn’t really aged all that well. I was disappointed to see how slow the movie got in the middle and and giant plot hole in the middle of the movie that we seem to just need to ignore. It’s great to see an important and classic film even if it isn’t really that cool anymore. There were times where I just wanted to watch Dirty Harry, a movie that aged a lot better. Still, if you’re a film enthusiast, Bullitt should be seen for the history.