Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Bank Job


The Bank Job is a British 2008 crime film based on a 1971 true-life robbery of a bank in Baker Street, London, from which the money and valuables stolen were never recovered. The story was prevented from being told because of a D-Notice government gagging request, allegedly to protect a prominent member of the British Royal Family. According to the producers, this movie is intended to reveal the truth for the first time, although it includes significant elements of fiction and the extent to which it represents historical fact is difficult to determine.

Petty-criminal-gone-straight Terry Leathers (Jason Statham) owns a failing car-sales garage being harassed by two debt-collectors. His old girlfriend Martine (Saffron Burrows) offers Terry a chance to earn enough money to never worry about debt again: a bank robbery in Baker Street, London. Terry gathers a bunch of petty-criminal friends to help execute the plan. They lease a shop two lots away from the bank and start digging a tunnel underneath the middle shop (a chicken fast-food restaurant) in order to reach the underground bank vault. Terry employs a "watchman" with a walkie-talkie to sit on the roof of the building opposite and keep a look out for trouble.

What they don't know is that Martine, who has been caught smuggling heroin into Britain and desperately wants to avoid jail, is setting them up on behalf of MI5, which wants the contents of a certain safe deposit box within the bank. This safe deposit box contains compromising photos of a female member of the British Royal Family (identified in the film as Princess Margaret). The photos are in a box belonging to a black militant who calls himself Michael X; he is using the photos to avoid trouble with the Metropolitan Police, and MI5 is desperate to keep the photos out of circulation.

As Terry and his crew dig, their radio chatter draws the attention of a local amateur radio operator, who listens in on the conversation and realises he's overhearing a bank robbery in progress. He calls the police, but with a 10 mile radius to search and a lack of concrete details, they fail to pin the robbery down.

After they have broken in and begin looting the vault, Martine goes for the deposit-box with the photos. A suspicious Terry opens the box with her and, upon seeing the pictures, knows that Martine has a hidden agenda. In addition to those photos, further photos of a number of high-ranking government officials are found, at the top a senior MP in compromising positions in a local S&M brothel. The robbers pocket these with the money and other valuables. Terry arranges for alternate transportation to throw off MI5, allowing them to escape.

Two of the six robbers leave with their share of the spoils. When Terry confronts Martine over the photos, she explains their predicament. Meanwhile, the robbery is discovered, and the police — both corrupt ones receiving payoffs and honest ones — start their investigation. MI5 is likewise searching. Lew Vogel (David Suchet), a local club owner, is worried about the contents of his ledger, which lists every payoff he's made to the police, which was stolen during the robbery. He also phones Michael X to inform him that his box containing the royal 'portraits' has gone missing. Michael X starts to get suspicious of a female British spy, who has befriended his brother and gone with the family to Trinidad and Tobago.

The club owner manages to find one of the robbers, and tortures him for information. When he eventually tells Vogel everything, Vogel goes to the garage where Terry worked and kidnaps a mechanic, who was the lookout during the robbery, taking him to the same secret location and tying him down. At the same time, the senior MP is shown the photos of himself in the brothel, and agrees to try to help absolve the robbers of all wrongdoing and give them safe passage out of the country. Meanwhile, MI5 issues a D-Notice forbidding the press from reporting on the heist any longer. Police simultaneously release recordings from the walkie-talkie conversations, in the hope that someone will recognize the voices. These recordings are heard on the radio by Terry's family.

The club owner goes on to shoot one of the robbers dead, around the same time as Michael X murders the British spy. MI5 makes an agreement with Terry, and agree to meet him at Paddington Station in London. Terry gives the same instruction to the officer in charge of the investigation, citing knowledge of corrupt officers under his control. He also convinces the club owner to go to Paddington Station at the same time, offering him the book with details of corrupt officers in return for the safe return of his mechanic. This results in a large meeting of all of the involved parties at the same time.

Terry stands on the platform waiting for the others, while Martine meets up with her original contact within MI5 on a bridge overlooking the scene. The club owner and his corrupt police accomplices arrive with the mechanic, but recognize MI5 agents present and run. At the same time, the head of MI5 arrives (with Lord Mountbatten), handing over the documentation and passports that Terry bargained for, in return for the photos of the princess. Terry then chases the fleeing club owner and his aides. He starts to attack the club owner, and then fights with one of the aides, knocking them both out. The second aide appears with a gun, but Terry manages to avoid the shots and knock him out with a brick hastily dislodged from a wall.

The police officer in charge of the investigation then arrives, and sees the robbers being arrested. He speaks with the MI5 officers present, who direct police to let the robbers go. When the officer approaches the car where Terry is being held to ask for the bribe payout ledger, Terry agrees to hand it over in exchange of freedom. Terry and the other robbers are then released, the policeman saying "I don't see any bank-robbers in here" upon looking in the car in which the robbers are sitting. The club owner and the corrupt officers are arrested, and the militant is arrested in Trinidad and Tobago. His house is then burnt down after orders from Tim Everett.

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