Okay, first things first: Two mini-micro reviews, since I’ve been so neglectful of late. Vantage Point: The whole idea here is that looks deceive, and they were right — the previews made this look like a good movie. And The Other Boleyn Girl — I absolutely love Tudor history, but all I can say about this is kids, don’t use either the film or the book it’s based on as a basis for your history papers, because you’ll flunk.
Okay. Now onto the big score. In 1971, a group of thieves broke into a branch of the famous Lloyd’s Bank of London and robbed not the vault, as one might expect, but the safety deposit boxes. This turned out to be a much better move than robbing the vault, as it turned out — though many were reluctant to report what they’d lost, some estimates put the losses at more than 4 million pounds. That works out today to over $8 milliion US, and that’s not even adjusted for inflation, because I have no idea how to do that. The crime was all over the news for a few days, then disappeared completely. The British government had issued something called a D-order, commanding the media to stop their reporting, and they did. I’m not entirely sure those still work today, but back then they had some clout. But to this day, it isn’t generally known who was behind it or why the government stepped in.
Enter this film, to offer up one very fun theory. According to the script, Princess Margaret, who was apparently quite a wild woman in the 1960’s and 70’s, was the subject of some very racy blackmail photos. The blackmailer (supposedly) was a real-life Black Power leader and wanna-be Malcolm X who called himself Michael X, and used the photos to get immunity for all his varied criminal enterprises. MI-5 wants these photos desperately, of course, but they have to be sneaky about it so as to avoid any scandal or direct ties between them and whatever underhanded methods they have to use to get the pictures.
So they recruit a minor drug dealer named Martine (Saffron Burrows, Troy), to lure in a group of criminals to pull off the robbery. She goes back to some old friends: Terry Leather (Jason Statham, The Transporter), since married and trying to be respectable; and his mates Kevin (Stephen Campbell Moore, Amazing Grace) and Dave (Daniel Mays, Atonement) — not quite so respectable, perhaps. But they’re certainly not bank robbers or any kind of big-league crooks, and you can tell.
|Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between miners and bank robbers these days.|
They have a decent plan — they take over the lease of a nearby empty store, and use its basement as a tunnelling point to get them into the bank from below. But they have this thing called a thermic lance (think a sparkler, only a thousand times bigger and hotter) to help them get through all the concrete and steel, and they nearly burn the whole building down while they’re playing with it. They’re noisy, attracting attention from nearby stores, they order food to be delivered while they work, and don’t even bother to wear gloves. Worst of all, they use walkie-talkies to keep in touch with their lookout, forgetting how easy it can be to overhear things on those.
But they succeed, and have a party in the basement, rummaging through all the myriad treasures from the deposit boxes. Their fortunes are made, they think — until they find not only the offending royal photos, but a whole stack of other, equally appalling pictures that a local madam kept there, not to mention a ledger of payoffs to corrupt cops, recorded by pimp and strip-club owner Lew Vogel (David Suchet, of Poirot fame, and I’m officially exhausted with listing past credits).
Here’s where you might need to start taking notes. This is a British film, and they expect people to pay attention, so there’s a lot going on. Aside from MI-5, both the madam and the sinister Vogel want their things back — especially Vogel, who isn’t afraid to use something that I think was some sort of mechanical paint-stripper to get his way, and has half the London police on his payroll besides. Other politicians slowly get pulled in as well, for their various, scandalous reasons, until our intrepid gang of hero-thieves no longer knows which way to turn.
And there’s so much more that happens, I couldn’t even begin to explain it all. But it’s well-done, fast-paced and interesting, though as I said, you do have to pay attention. The characters are great, the sort of odd and off-beat people you might know yourself, and the humor is nice and dry, just the way I like it. So four idols here, and it’s well worth any note-taking you might have to do.