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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Mini Chases and Smart Lines

In keeping with this week’s theme of remakes,we bring you both editions of The Italian Job,separated by nearly four decades.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Published: July 23, 2011 3:43:18 am

The Italian Job

Two DVD pack on

Reliance Home Video

RS 699

In keeping with this week’s theme of remakes,we bring you both editions of The Italian Job,separated by nearly four decades. In 1969,Michael Caine essayed one of those roles that an actor takes on without any inkling that it will turn memorable,playing a natty thief who’s after one of the biggest hauls of his career. In 2003,Mark Wahlberg turned into a con in a film of the same name,but this second Italian job has already gone down as just another well-shot heist film.

The first one opens with Charlie Croker coming out of jail. Nothing out of the ordinary about the scene — how many movies have you seen where the leading man emerges from a prison? But Caine makes it special by sauntering into a waiting car with a blonde floozy at the wheel,looking at a miniature flag that falls out of the glove compartment,and exclaiming: This car belongs to the Pakistani ambassador! My first day out of prison and I’m already in a stolen car!! That sets the tone for the film — fun and frivolity mixed with smart crooks and smarter lines.

In a nice audio commentary,spliced by the film’s scenes,we are let in on the things that went on behind the scenes. Running through the movie are many expensive cars — Lamborghinis,Ferraris — and a lot of those cars are smashed. Turns out those cars were just empty shells bought from junkyards,and they had no engines (in one scene,you can actually see such a carcass falling down a cliff).

It also seems that Noel Coward,whose last film this was,had a problem remembering long lines,so they gave him the shortest possible scenes (you can almost imagine a prompter standing close by),and wrapped up his bit in two weeks flat. Coward plays a smooth con artist,a sort of senior craftsman that Croker defers to,and their scenes are a hoot. Both are masters of understatement,though the much younger Caine is made to be a bit cocky as well,the kind of lad who has a glad eye for under clad ladies. In a scene that out-rivals anything similar in a Bond movie,Croker is offered his pick of several willing young things. Which do you like,he’s asked. Says he,as only Caine can: everything.

The car chases which feature the three iconic Minis careering around in streets of Turin (that’s where the Italian bit comes in) are more quaint today than anything else. So are the dark-shades sporting local hoods. But watching Caine go through his moves is a joy still. So is this line,after a car goes up in smoke after a blast,which Caine mouths at a fellow felon: you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

Caine is a character you do not forget.

By contrast,Mark Wahlberg is just one of the boys in the 2003 film,even if he’s the best looking. More than a remake,it’s a tribute to the older movie: the Italian part in this comes from a spectacular chase in Venice,as Wahlberg (also called Charlie Croker) and co try getting their stash of gold back from a double-crossing member of the gang. The new film is polished and spiffy,aimed at today’s audience which wants speed at any cost. It also has the lovely Charlize Theron as an ace safe-cracker. And it has a clutch of Mini Coopers. But if you ask me,and please do,I will plump for the one in which Caine goes gallivanting all over the Italian countryside,and calling out as the bus in which the gold and the gang teeter precariously over a cliff : hang on,I’ve got a great idea.

What a great last line.

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