Let's get one thing straight. Peter Collinson's The Italian Job (1969) is not a great film - it's an average film with a great finale. Oh, and another thing: F Gary Gray's remake blows the bloody doors off it.
The action kicks off in spectacular style on the Venetian waterways, where John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) heads a motley crew of thieves (Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def) in a bullion heist. Charlie Croker is the brains of the operation - but with Mark 'Blanky Blank' Wahlberg in the Michael Caine role, this requires unreserved suspension of disbelief.
The job comes off without a hitch until inside-man Steve (Edward Norton) gets greedy. He blows Bridger away, leaving the others for al fresco fish chow beneath an alpine lake. Only one person is more narked than Croker and that's Bridger's daughter, safecracking specialist Stella (Charlize Theron). Still soggy, Croker and the lads return to LA where they enlist her services to take back the gold, and more importantly, stick it to Steve.
"ADDS WALLOP LACKING IN THE ORIGINAL"
This revenge plot adds wallop lacking in the original, albeit occasionally destabilised by Mark Wahlberg's cosmic anti-presence. Charlize Theron is left to drive the movie, taking the wheel with quiet confidence and steering it home. But it's Edward Norton who sparkles supreme, engaging with lazy insolence (perhaps a by-product of his being railroaded into the part by studio brass).
It's just a shame the flirty cat-and-mouse game between Stella and Steve heads up a cul-de-sac to give way for Croker. But despite this Wahlberg-shaped dent in the chassis, The Italian Job MkII never stalls. The culminating 'big job', with a trio of Mini Coopers incongruously zipping through LA gridlock, has all the audacious mischief of its progenitor. The difference is you don't have to endure an hour of dull cockney banter to get there.
It's fair to say that, in managing to soup up Collinson's old banger, Gray has successfully pulled off the biggest job of all.