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'Italian Job' offers plenty of rewards for second time around

Sept. 2, 2003

By Eric Schaefer, reporter

Veteran thief John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) explains to his apprentice, Charlie (Mark Wahlberg), that there are two kinds of thieves - those who live to steal and those who do so only to enrich their lives. Bridger and Charlie are the 'nice guy' thieves who want plenty of riches but don't want to hurt people.

From debonair Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief to stylish George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven, such crooks shun violence for ingenuity and typically target treasures that were obtained by others through illegal means.

Successful caper movies offer colorful characters, creative scheming and exotic locales. The Italian Job, one of the summer's highest grossing movies, is being re-released and has all of these elements and more.

The aging Bridger is passing the torch to Charlie who has planned the heist of $35 million in gold from a Venice palace. In addition to Charlie the mastermind, there is break-in artist Steve (Edward Norton), computer hacker Lyle (Seth Green), demolition man Left-Ear (Mos Def), and getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham from The Transporter).

The opening scene is magnificent with a stunning speedboat chase through the Venetian canals. Later, when the gang meets up in the breathtaking Italian Alps, things turn bad. A year later the gang is back in the States intent on re-stealing their gold from a Los Angeles mansion. The team's newest member is Stella (Charlize Theron), John's daughter and an expert safecracker.

One of the movie's strengths is its stellar cast. Wahlberg has mastered the sympathetic outsider and has a much more entertaining script to work with than last year's disappointing The Truth About Charlie. Norton, star of last year's overlooked 25th Hour, is impressive as usual.

In a nice touch, Theron's Stella is more eager to use her brains than her beauty, though both become necessary. Def and Statham make the most of their supporting roles, and Green nearly steals the show with his nerdy antics and computer tricks.

The Italian Job offers plenty of thrilling break-ins, escapes and chases.

The action moves swiftly and the soundtrack is appropriately pulse pounding. The movie's lighthearted tone, for the most part, works well with the unbelievable stunts. Though the movie is not as stylish as Ocean's Eleven or as well written as Heist it hits all the right notes.

Director F. Gary Gray has thankfully backed off the gratuitous violence and pessimism of his previous work, A Man Apart. The Italian Job is not great but is a good choice for those who missed it the first time and need one last summer movie fix before plunging into the semester's demands. Grade: B