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The Italian Job

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Genre: Crime drama / comedy

Opens: Now playing

The pitch: Master crook Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) pulls off the perfect robbery, but one member of his team swindles the $35 million for himself. Croker and his cohorts call on safecracking Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron) to steal back the stolen booty.

Money shots: In the opening robbery sequence, a heavily guarded safe is snatched by dropping it through three floors of a Venice residence. The gimmick is repeated later with an armored car.

Backstory: Director F. Gary Gray's remake of the obscure 1968 Michael Caine film transports the action to L.A., where the city's notorious traffic plays a pivotal role. Caine fans may scoff at the new script, but then again, how many people have actually seen the original?

Nods or rip-offs?: Scuba-geared bandits show up as in Sexy Beast. A chase sequence through a series of wide concrete drainage lanes evokes both Terminator 2 and, oddly enough, Grease.

Product placement: The movie's second half essentially becomes one long MINI Cooper commercial, when the crooks use three of the cars to pull off the grand heist.

Typecasting?: Seth Green (Austin Powers) plays exactly the kind of klutzy-but-brilliant hacker dude you'd expect. After The Truth About Charlie and Three Kings, Wahlberg should know how to energize a high-stakes crime movie, but his performance here is D.O.A.

Flesh factor: Disappointingly low. Theron has only one slightly slutty pajama scene, while Wahlberg manages to keep his trademark Adonis abs under wraps.

Cameo: A poorly conceived running joke involves Lyle's (Green) claim that he was the uncredited inventor of Napster, which leads to a appearance by the file-sharing program's real creator, Sean Fanning.

The bottom line: This fairly standard heist flick too quickly dumps its early somber tone for the sake of a few cheap laughs. Still, a few inspired twists and some nail-biting auto stunts save The Italian Job from the banal standards of, say, Ocean's 11.


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