The Italian Job. Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by F. Gary Gray. Written by Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, based on a film written by Troy Kennedy Martin. Running time: 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for violence and some language). Starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def, Donald Sutherland.

Italian Job, The

I'll be the first to admit that remaking the 1969 Michael Caine film The Italian Job is not exactly a great idea, but the new version is less a remake than an original movie with the same name. Certainly, the two films share several key characteristics, but the story has been almost completely reworked. I'm not sure whether the movie would have worked if it had just been an updated version of the same movie, but as it is, The Italian Job is a worthy entry into the summer field.

Only the first twenty minutes of the movie actually take place in Italy, and the events that occur there set the stage for the rest of the movie. John (Donald Sutherland) is out for one last job, led by his protégé, Charlie (Mark Wahlberg). The rest of the crew is made up of Lyle (Seth Green), the techie who claims to have been the true inventor of Napster; Hansome Rob (Jason Statham), a womanizer who once drove across the U.S. just so he could set the record for longest police chase; Left Ear (Mos Def), the explosives expert who is deaf in his left ear, hence the name; and Steve (Edward Norton), who is about to betray the group and take the heisted gold for himself. Steve kills John and leaves the rest of the group for dead.

Flash foward one year. The group, now led by Charlie, is back together, but unable to move on without getting revenge on Steve. Their plan is to steal back their gold (or what's left of it), right out from under Steve's nose. In order to pull it off, they need an expert safe cracker - for this, they turn to Stella (Charlize Theron), John's daughter. Stella makes a living testing safes for major companies, and can crack just about any safe in a matter of minutes. Together, they set up a plan to get the gold. They don't want to kill Steve, just see his face when he realizes his gold is gone.

While The Italian Job is a relatively simple heist movie, it still gets the job done. The director, F. Gary Gray, has discovered the way to keep a heist movie interesting - keep the plot moving, and fill it with likeable characters and sharp dialogue. There aren't any lines that reach the quality of David Mamet's, but there are plenty of good ones, and much of the writing has a biting, incisive wit.

Mark Wahlberg is still a stiff actor, but he brings his own understated charisma to the role of Charlie, and he's actually pretty good. Charlize Theron has energy to sapre, and she shares a certain level of chemistry with Wahlberg. Jason Statham proves that he should be getting Vin Diesel's roles and Vin Diesel's paychecks. Seth Green and Mos Def provide comic support, and Edward Norton is deliciously evil.

For a more serious movie fan like myself, The Italian Job is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. I recognize that the story has a few holes, and the movie's not exactly deep, but it's still an enjoyable 100 minutes spent in a theater. And what's wrong with that?

© 2003 Matt Noller