March 24, 2008
The Bank Job is easily one of the best heist movies of recent vintage. With nary an electronic gizmo in sight, our would-be bank robbers have to get by on those most timeless of qualities; drills, British accents, and a wee bit of guff are all that’s needed to loot and plunder. The movie is funny, refreshing, and exciting, and Jason Statham shows that he can be a legitimate movie star, and not just an action wind-up-doll. Yet the movie falls into a rather unexpected trap. While it manages to deconstruct the modern heist movie, exposing the genre’s over-reliance on technology and precision timing, as well as its over glamourizing of the robbers, The Bank Job does manage to fall into one rather common cinematic pratfall: the torture scene.
Too many movies make use of torture scenes these days, to the point where moviegoers now have the (often) opposite impulses of wondering if a) the scene goes too far and b) if the scene was necessary at all. Movies have always utilized torture scenes, but recent years have seen them proliferate as a result of the Iraq war and the implied political statement that they entail. As a result, the once harrowing moments have become repetitive and obvious, or excessive and cruel without reason. In this regard, these moments resemble drug use/abuse; while not everyone personally knows what the problem is like, everyone knows what it looks like to play a junkie, and how that role is played. Now, everyone knows the emotional responses of torture. The scene has been cheapened, and the emotional impact of pointed torture scenes blunted. Moviemakers need to find a new visual language for addressing these problems rather than relying on the ease of familiar moments.