The Bank Job is a 2008 British heist-thriller film written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Jason Statham, based on the 1971 Baker Street robbery in central London, from which the money and valuables stolen were never recovered. The producers allege that the story was prevented from being told in 1971 because of a D-Notice government gagging request, allegedly to protect a prominent member of the British Royal Family. According to the producers, this film is intended to reveal the truth for the first time, although it includes significant elements of fiction.
The premiere was held in London on 18 February 2008. The film was released in both the UK on 29 February 2008 and in the US on 7 March 2008. It has grossed $64.8 million worldwide and has a 79% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which called it "thoroughly entertaining".
The British Security Services (MI5) have taken interest in a safe deposit box that is located in a Lloyd's Bank branch on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road. It belongs to a black militant gangster, Michael X (Peter de Jersey), and contains compromising photos of Princess Margaret, which he is keeping as insurance to keep the British authorities off his back. Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), an ex-model who is romantically involved with MI5 agent Nick Barton (Craig Fairbrass), is caught at Heathrow Airport smuggling drugs into the country, and to avoid going to jail, she makes a deal with the authorities whereby she agrees to retrieve the photos.
Martine approaches her friend Terry (Jason Statham), a struggling East London car salesman with criminal contacts, and tells him that if he can assemble the gang to help her rob the bank, he will be richly rewarded, though she does not tell him about the photos in the deposit box. Terry recruits a small team, including one of his own workers, Eddie (Michael Jibson), to serve as the look-out, and Dave (Daniel Mays), a porn actor who once made films for Lew Vogel (David Suchet), a gangster whom Dave happens to run into outside the bank before the robbery.
The gang tunnels its way into the bank vault, where it steals money and other valuables, but Terry is suspicious when he notices that Martine seems to be interested only in one box containing nothing but photographs. After they escape together, Terry throws off a pursuit by MI5. By now, the police have been alerted to the robbery by a ham radio operator who has picked the "chatter" from the gang's walkie-talkies up, and Lew learns that among the missing safe deposit boxes is his own box, which is full of evidence about his payoffs to crooked cops. He notifies a furious Michael X in Trinidad, who correctly suspects Gale Benson (Hattie Morahan), Hakim Jamal's lover, of spying for MI5, and subsequently murders her. Lew decides that Daveâs presence outside that particular bank was not a coincidence, and has him tortured for information. Dave gives in, and Lew goes to Terryâs garage to kidnap Eddie. Meanwhile, a government minister learns that he is also featured in some of the stolen photos, and persuades MI5 to give the robbers new passports and safe passage in exchange for the photos in order to avoid a scandal.
One of the crooked cops on Lew's payroll shoots Dave, and threatens to shoot Eddie unless Lew gets his evidence back. Terry agrees to deliver it to him at Paddington station at the same time when he is supposed to be picking his new passports up from MI5, but has meanwhile passed the details on to an honest cop, Roy, who alerts MI5 agents. During the exchange, Lew recognises the agents, and he and the corrupt cops make a run for it. Terry pursues Lew and proceeds to beat him up, but Roy breaks the fight up and arrests Lew and his colleagues. In Trinidad, Michael X is also arrested. With his freedom and his new passport, Terry and his family enjoy a carefree life on their small motor yacht off a sunny beach.
The film is in part based on historical facts about the Baker Street robbery. A gang tunneled into a branch of Lloyds Bank at the junction of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, in London, on the night of 11 September 1971 and robbed the safe deposit boxes that were stored in the vault. The robbers had rented a leather goods shop named Le Sac two doors down from the bank, and tunneled a distance of approximately 40 feet (12 metres), passing under the Chicken Inn restaurant that was located between the shop and the bank. The tunneling took 3 weeks working on weekends.
Robert Rowlands, a ham radio operator, overheard conversations between the robbers and their rooftop lookout. He contacted police and tape-recorded the conversations, which were subsequently made public. The film includes lines recorded by Rowlands, such as the lookout's comment that "Money may be your god, but it's not mine, and I'm fucking off."
The film's producers said that they have an inside source, identified in press reports as George McIndoe, who served as an executive producer. The film's plot point of the issuance of a D-Notice, because a safe deposit box held sex pictures of Princess Margaret with London gangster-turned-actor John Bindon, is entirely fictional. The possible connection to Michael X is apparently based on information provided by McIndoe, though the basis and extent of his information remains unclear. The Daily Mail interviewed a convicted robber, who claims to be a perpetrator and he indicated that embarrassing photos including child pornography were found but deliberately left behind for the police. The film-makers acknowledged that they made up the character Martine, and David Denby in The New Yorker wrote that it is "impossible to say how much of the film's story is true".
The fictitious character of Lew Vogel may in part allude to pornographer and racketeer Bernie Silver, a key figure in Soho in the 1960s and early 1970s, who was imprisoned in 1975 for the 1956 murder of Tommy "Scarface" Smithson; and also to later events surrounding his associate the real-life pornographer James Humphreys. After an outcry in 1972 when the Sunday People published photographs of the head of the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad, Commander Kenneth Drury, spending a luxurious two-week holiday with Humphreys and their wives in Cyprus, a police raid on Humphreys' house uncovered a wallsafe containing a diary cataloguing detailed itemised payments to seventeen different officers. Humphreys was imprisoned for eight years in 1974 for wounding his wife's former lover. He then turned Queen's Evidence, testifying against some of Scotland Yard's most senior officers in two major corruption trials in 1977, for which he received a Royal Pardon and was released from prison. In 1994 Humphreys was imprisoned for twelve months for living off the earnings of prostitutes.
The film includes multiple historical grace notes. The outlandish introduction of Michael X's character showing him leading a landlord locked in a slave collar is not dramatic license but is based on a similar historical incident. An unremarked passing glance at a photo of John Lennon found in Michael X's safety deposit box is inspired by John Lennon's support for Michael X's "Black house" headquarters depicted in the film, and Lennon posting his bail. A moment of great tension in the film, where the police visit the vault while the robbers are inside, did occur. Not only did the robbers use the thermal lance shown in the film, but went even further and employed explosives. Contrary to the epilogue, Michael X was not tried and executed for the murder of Gale Benson, but rather for the murder of Joseph Skerritt, another commune member, who was found buried along with Benson. It is also not true that Michael X's personal files are to be kept classified until 2054.
The production crew used Chatham Historic Dockyard to shoot the sequence at the side entrance of Paddington station where the final showdown between Terry and Lew Vogel takes place.
Part of the filming took place on location at the offices of Websters, 136 Baker Street where the rooftops were used for lookout locations. The majority of outside shots, namely shots including the bank and adjacent shops, were done on a specially constructed set of Baker Street, to retain an authentic feel of the period and to allow for greater control. This partial set was extended using VFX.
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 79% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 144 reviews. The consensus reads: "Well cast and crisply directed, The Bank Job is a thoroughly entertaining British heist thriller." Metacritic reports the film has an average score of 69 out of 100 based on 32 reviews.
Box office performance
The film grossed US$64.8 million. The film opened at No. 4 in North America and grossed US$5,935,256 in 1,603 cinemas.
- "Get It On" â" T. Rex
- "Lola" â" The Kinks
- "Hey There" â" The Basics
- "Money (That's What I Want)" â" The Storys, seen early in the film as the wedding band
- "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" â" The Hollies
- "In the Midnight Hour" â" Wilson Pickett
- "Gunshot" â" Anthony Johnson
- Official website
- The Bank Job on IMDb
- The Bank Job at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Bank Job at Metacritic
- The Bank Job at Box Office Mojo
- The Bank Job at AllMovie