1 Star — Disturbing
The actual event on which Roger Donaldson’s film, The Bank Job, is based is itself debasing. From the sexual immorality of a member of England’s royal family that created the need for the heist, to the police and government corruption that was uncovered, to the subsequent government cover-up, this event provides a disturbing look at the underside of humanity. Since it is a true story about sex and violence, its nudity and bloodshed are a necessary part of the film, but it easily deserves its “R” rating.
Although the veracity of the film is being questioned and the writers admit to changing the names and fictionalizing some aspects, reports by the London Telegraph explain that its writers had inside information. George McIndoe claims to have met the main character given the name of Terry Leather (Jason Stratham). For more than 30 years, McIndoe has tried to get someone to make this unsolved robbery into a film. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were the writers who finally agreed to do so.
The tale begins in the sparkling waters off a white-sand beach where an unidentified woman soon finds herself in a sexual threesome. Unknown to her, Michael X (Peter De Jersey) is photographing their impropriety. She is identified in the film as Princess Margaret (Louise Chambers), although the actual identity is sealed by the British courts until 2054. Michael X places the photographs in the vault of Lloyd’s Bank on Baker Street and uses it as protection from prosecution for his criminal life. An intelligence agent named Tim Everett (Richard Lintern) is given the assignment to get the photographs without anyone knowing the government is involved.
To distance him and the government from the robbery, Everett forces Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) to gather a gang of unlikely and unsuspecting thieves. What he and Martine do not realize is that the leader she chooses, Leather, is far more capable than they expect. They also do not realize there are other incriminating photographs and records kept in the same vault with the princess’ pictures.
We won’t spoil the intrigue of what happens next, but it is a possible explanation of the facts that are known: The valuables were never collected in what is one of the largest robberies in British history; the government did stop the media from reporting the story after three days, and Michael X was convicted of murder and hanged in Trinidad in 1975. It is a mystery that has long begged for explanation.
A story of greed, sex, corruption and violence is even more disturbing when it is true. This is a well-told tale of a debasing event you may not want to see.
• Do you believe the pictures Michael X had are of a royal family member? Why or why not? What do you believe the British government would seal for 83 years if not that?
• When Leather tells his wife, Wendy (Keeley Hawes), that he is going to be working long hours on something he doesn’t want her to ask about, she accepts his explanation. After she discovers he robbed the bank she seems to be only concerned about whether he was sexually faithful. What would you do if your spouse did this? Would you be tempted by the wealth?
• The government’s decision to let this gang keep the contents of the boxes was matched by the decision of the owners of the boxes to not explain what was in them. Do you agree with either decision?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.