“The Italian Job” isn’t the most developed or emotionally-intriguing heist film, but it does ooze a palpable sense of cool from its star-studded exhaust pipe. This movie succeeds in part because of its pre-modern Internet setting, where technology was viewed in polar extremes of super good or super evil. But it’s the kinetic action that keeps us hooked in there back seat, throwing high speed chases and risky car maneuvering, keeping our hunger for entertainment fulfilled without ever losing our lunch.
Mark Wahlberg plays Charlie Cooker, a budding young thief and con man whose learned from veteran stealing statesman John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). On a recent job, a teammate named Steve (Edward Norton) screws the crew over, stealing their stolen money and murdering Bridger in the process.
Charlie finagles a plan to get back at Steve, this time incorporating Bridget’s safe-cracking daughter Stella (Charlize Theron). There’s supposed to be sexual tension between the two, but that’s only because the movie paints every male Stella interacts with as a chauvinistic asshole, while Charlie’s the perennial good guy.
Really, Steve is the only character with something resembling a personality. He’s incredibly dickish, impulsive, and dangerous, but at least he does things that can qualify adjectives about him. The other characters are overwhelmingly neutral on the emotional wavelength, nothing more than pleasant conversations posing as people.
Perhaps that’s because “The Italian Job” couldn’t license enough original material to make them seem interesting. More likely, they knew that we just wanted to watch for the cars and guns, and it focused on giving us the best version of that. It’s not the best tradeoff but it works, with “The Italian Job” borrowing enough from “Oceans Eleven” and the “Fast and Furious” films to speed by.