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The Italian Job ***
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Starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton
Directed by F. Gary Gray


     A good heist flick makes all the difference.  Many times, the heist flicks that come out involve a variation of the last good heist flick you saw.  That's okay, but as an audience member, I am always more pleased to see something new, something fresh.  I like being surprised, enthralled by the cleverness before me.  "The Italian Job" failed to surprise me, but it was an entertaining ride through and through.  And what more can we expect from summer fair?
     Edward Norton ("Fight Club," "The Score," "25th Hour"), Mark Wahlberg ("Three Kings," "The Perfect Storm," "The Planet of the Apes"), Charlize Theron ("The Cider House Rules," "The Legend of Bagger Vance," "Reindeer Games"), Seth Green (the "Austin Powers" series, "Knockaround Guys," "Can't Hardly Wait"), Mos Def ("Monster's Ball"), Jason Statham ("Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," "Snatch,"), and Donald Sutherland ("Outbreak," "Panic," "A Time to Kill") make up a fantastic ensemble.  Each character gets a nifty introduction and a cool name (Handsome Rob, Left Ear, etc.).  What other kind of movies do this?  Well, a lot actually.  And that's kind of the story for the whole movie.  Everything is a rehash of what we as an audience have already seen, only now it's stylized and backed by stars with Hollywood grins and perfect hair.  That isn't to cheapen the performances of the cast, everyone acted quite nicely in fact.  It just means that we know how it's all going to end, not necessarily how it's going to get there, but how it's going to end all the same.  Plus, many of the film's quality moments are given away in the trailer, a habit that studios must break immediately.  Still, there is enough "pop" in the film to keep audiences happy, myself included.
     Charlie Croker (Wahlberg) is the point man in a heist in (you guessed it) Italy.  He heads a group of hoods who are loveable and cool in the way hoods only are in movies.  He has specialists for every facet of the plan, and it goes smoothly, leaving the group with 35 million dollars worth of gold.  But, as the trailer so clearly gives away, there is a member (Norton) among them making a play to keep the gold for himself.  The elder statesman of the group (Sutherland) is shot and killed in a cold manner and it makes people mad.  You see, they didn't want him to get shot and they really wanted to keep the gold that they had put so much efffort in to steal.  It's all elementary, but it works.   
     Croker recruits the old man's daughter (Theron) to crack the safe that Norton has placed his gold in.  You see, Sutherland was the safe cracker, and he died, so they need his daughter to fill in.  She's a civilian who makes a living testing safes for banks and wealthy businessmen.  But she'll give up the straight and narrow if it means she gets to see the face on Norton if or when they steal his gold.  Can it be seen a mile away?  Yes, it can.  But so can the Eiffel Tower, and it's still a sight to be seen.  Many of the plot's twists are average to good, and I wasn't really ever surprised by any one of them, but I liked the movie quite a bit.  It's a great piece of escapist fair that all the other critics talk about all the time.  It's a lot of fun, and as long as that's all that you are looking for heading in, you won't be disappointed.
     The acting involves a lot of Charlize looking bewildered, Mark looking suave or tense, and Edward looking mean and menacing.  But they all do it so well.  Theron hasn't really turned in a better than average performance since her very good work in "The Cider House Rules."  She finds her talent again and actually does a good job.
     Wahlberg can be wonderful ("Three Kings") or pretty bad ("The Planet of the Apes").  He goes for the former and carries the film on his shoulders (his suave, smug, clever shoulders).
     Norton is one of my favorite actors and I will always see anything he does with an air of excitement.  He is the best actor of his generation and he can only be awesome.  He's awesome in "The Italian Job," but it's really in spite of the role.  He really isn't given much to do except be mean and menacing, as stated earlier.  This doesn't leave a lot of room for him to stretch himself, but every once in a while, he infuses subtle flashes of pure Norton into the otherwise run-of-the-mill part.
     The rest of the cast does a fine job, except for the terrible Franky G, who manages to destroy every line he has as well as every second he's on screen.  He must be a friend of the director, because, frankly, he sucks.
     F. Gary Gray captures all the action with a keen eye for the shots we want to see.  The chases and explosions are all captured with expert skill.  But everything rushed.  The chase scenes are short, leaving me wanting the long, drawn out chases of "The Matrix: Reloaded," "The Bourne Identity," and "Ronin."  But all the action "pops," maybe even "snaps" and "crackles."  See the movie for a good time.  You'll have one.  

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