The Italian Job - Special Collector's Edition (2003)
Length: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Anamorphic
Audio: DD 5.1
The Italian Job (2003) is not really a remake of the 1969 film... that would suggest a retelling of the same story. Well, yes... there is a traffic jam in this film... and there are those adorable Minis... and there’s something about stealing gold... but aside from these familiar features, the story and tenor of this film is completely different from the original. The 1969 version was rated “G” and was full of British humor. This film is darker, more serious (though there are a few chuckles), and - aside from the opening in Venice, the whole thing is American. The two films are from an entirely different mold.
The 2003 version opens with a heist of a safe full of gold, and a never-before-seen speedboat chase through the canals of Venice. Kinda gets your attention right off the bat.
Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) leads Steve (Edward Norton), computer expert “Naptser” (Seth Green), wheelman “Handsome Rob” (Jason Statham), bomb expert “Left Ear” (Mos Def), and safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) in the Venice caper, only to be double-crossed by Steve - who makes off with the loot.
Charlie and crew, back in the states, enlist the help of a beautiful safecracker named Stella (Charlize Theron) to re-steal the gold, using techniques from their caper in Venice, a huge traffic jam in Los Angeles, and the help of a fleet of Mini Coopers.
There’s really not much more to it than that. This is a caper film... not deep on plot... and not built for over-analysis - just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s a fun and slick caper film made from the same mold as The Score and Ocean’s Eleven. We get a little more detail on the “tech-behind-the-caper” than the original 1969 version of the film - which was out more for fun than for anything else.
F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator) directed this slick, action-packed caper film, and he delivers the goods. This film is scripted by Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, based on the original film written by Troy Kennedy Martin.
The film is 2.35:1 and the transfer is anamorphic. The picture is bright, clean and sharp, with excellent shadow detail. Colors are well-saturated and look beautiful. The film exhibits some grain in some of the darker scenes as a result of the original photographic process. No evidence of dust or scratches is present. With the exception of a bit of edge enhancement (very minor), I have no complaints. This is a beautiful transfer.
The DVD includes an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as English Dolby Surround and French 5.1 surround. My comments here are, of course, pertaining to the English 5.1 track.
The front soundstage is very open and active. Dialog is always crystal clear. Sounds regularly pan across the speakers when the content on-screen dictates. Bass response is strong, and in the case of some of the music, too strong for my taste... of course - some people like that sort of thing. If I recall, I had the same impression at the theater. LFE is used to very good effect for sound effects, delivering a room shaking experience. While the surrounds are very active in some scenes, the volume seems a bit lower than I would expect at times. Surrounds are sometimes used for ambience, as well - but at other times they fall completely silent - except for a slight hiss which surfaces from time to time, but definitely doesn’t belong there. This isn’t a disaster... you have to have your ear to the speaker to hear it. How did I hear it? I was making sure my surrounds were working during one of the scenes where there was a complete absence of ambient surround sound.
Now, keep in mind that this type of evaluation is purely subjective... and overall, I think it is an exceptional mix.
The special features are not anamorphic.
5 documentary featurettes:
Pedal to the Metal: The making of The Italian Job (18:16)
This is primarily about casting. There are interviews with director Gray and the entire cast (except for Norton) talking about how well they all worked together, etc. Following are notes on shooting on Hollywood Boulevard and in the tunnels, and sets re-creating the tunnels in a large aircraft hangar.
Putting the Words on the Page for The Italian Job (05:48)
Interviews with Donna and Wayne Powers, screenwriters of The Italian Job.
The Italian Job - Driving School (05:37)
The actors did almost all of their own driving stunts, and driving school was mandatory. Interviews with the cast of drivers and director Gray tell us all about the process of learning stunt driving. We also “sit in” with the actors on part of a class taught by Steve Kelso. Interesting is the interplay between Theron and Statham.
The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job (05:39)
Discussion of the Minis as characters in the film includes comments by Gray, producer Donald DeLine, executive producer James Dyer, and cast members. They all seem to love these cars. 32 custom made Mini Coopers were used for the film. A 24 hour body shop was on-hand for overnight body repairs. Three Minis were designed to run on electric motors for shooting in the subway tunnels, where operation of combustion engines is forbidden. This is an interesting piece on the cars.
High Octane: Stunts from The Italian Job (07:52)
Discussion by Gray and DeLine on how stunts and practical effects were used whenever possible, and use of CGI was almost completely avoided. The boat chase in Venice posed several challenges, including the fact that there are strictly enforced speed laws in the canals. Special permission was needed to make a wake. Statham, who had never driven a boat before, had to pilot a boat at high speed in the canals. The “Truck Drop” sequence is also discussed. Finally, the helicopter stunt is discussed... a scene I had assumed was done with models was done with the real thing. Amazing.
There are six deleted scenes:
“Stella Escapes Police”
“Left Ear Stuck in Traffic”
“Left Ear Breaks a Window”
The first of these scenes shoots for comedy and misses the mark. It’s easy to see why it was deleted. It runs for a few minutes, and is painful to watch for the entire duration.
The rest of the scenes are snippets from the Mini chase.
The second, third, fifth and sixth of these scenes concentrate on the idea that “Handsome Rob” is too injured to drive, and “Left Ear” has to take over - but he doesn’t know how to drive a stick. Another shoot and miss for comic relief here. The film is better without them. While one or two of these scenes might have worked, the concept didn’t, so they were likely all cut for continuity.
The fourth is a scene that lasts well under a minute. It’s not a bad clip, but it does nothing to advance the chase. My feeling is that it was cut for pacing.
The original theatrical trailer is included.
I loved this film... I thought is was one of the best of the summer of 2003 (of course, that statement alone isn’t much of a compliment...) It works very well for what it is. The performances are, for the most part, very strong. The direction is solid, and the editing is tight. Just sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Paramount has done a respectable job here, with a great picture, excellent sound, and some pretty thorough special features.
If you liked this film in theaters, you’ll want to pick up this DVD. If you didn’t see the film, pick it up anyway. It’s a great ride.