Ep. 50: The Italian Job

Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Action/Adventure, Podcast | 13 comments

Lord, it wasn’t good. A weak protagonist stumbles through a largely incoherent plot, only to arrive at the worst ending in cinematic history. Sounds like a fun show!
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Story Analysis & Ratings:

Alastair says: 1 Pop ~ I’m guilty, perhaps, of defending the indefensible, but I find The Italian Job to be an interesting failure, if only for the utter opacity and vindictive antagonism of its storytelling. I don’t hate it as much as Jenny or Lucy did, but I look forward to never seeing it again.
Alastair’s rating breakdown: Craft: 1, Comedy: 2, Suspence: 1

Jenny says: 1 Pop ~ This is the worst storytelling in PopD history. The protagonist is unlikable (and it’s Michael Caine, too, so how can that be?), the antagonist is confusing, the goal is uninspiring, and the plot is incomprehensible. Throw in Benny Hill and you have a Perfect Storm of Awful.
Jenny’s rating breakdown: Craft: 1, Comedy: 1, Suspense: 1

Blog Poll Rating: TBD

Click here to read the chat transcript!

Movie Info:

Story: Michael Caine steals again, this time a gold shipment. Release Date: Sept. 3, 1969 Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin

13 Comments

  1. You know I think coming from Britain it is an iconic film. It is one of the first heists with a supposed slick hero, and it reminds me of James Bond (seeing those again I have no interest in the hero). I hadn’t seen it in a long while. I like Michael Caine in some films he was in Jaws 4 and I think a film about killer hornets, then again I think that can be said for most actors. I like that Caine admits that about himself.

    Benny HIll has second billing on the film so maybe he had something to do with the money? That scene made me want to find him with a shovel.

    I was enagaged with the cars (bar that it made no snese) . The rest particularly the sexiam (which wouldn’t have bothered me as much if I liked the hero better), Lorna and the gang of people that were not good. Noel Coward delivers his lines beautifully.

    It isn’t a good film, but most British people know about it, and the references are there. It reminds of a bit that Eddie Izzard does in The Definate Article with Mice. Has me in hysterics everytime I watch it, and Izzard is a comedian I really love, he also says that if you’ve never seen the Italian Job that you’ve probably never lived, I think that kind of illustrates what I mean by referential.

    Frankly I am never going to watch this film again the bad far far far out weighs the good.

    The trickster hero – Jonathon Creek and Sherlock are great examples. Jonathon Creek a favourite of mine and Alan Davis is great in it. The stuff they do right is that the hero is smart, dynamic and able to understand puzzles but both still flawed. None of which the Italian Job did, but as have said never going to see it again.

  2. These past couple of heist films have been hard to watch. I think we have learned much from these. I look forward to what I can learn from films that DON’T make me cringe or make my eyes bleed. I have to say that I think the updated version of the Italian Job is a better film than the original. Has anyone else watched it? What did you think?

  3. I saw the updated Italian Job long before this one (it’s a favorite of my mom’s), and yes, it’s a better film. More serious, that’s for sure. I can never remember much about it beyond the cars, but I don’t remember it being stupid or “wtf?” Then again, it seems like most movies made in this time period make me think that everyone who made it is stupid and there are tons of WTF moments, so maybe it’s just me.

    As for this one, really, the only good bits are the cars and “The Self Preservation Society” song. That song is a hoot. But seriously, why the ending? Why?

  4. I just finished the podcast. My first thought: no way is this movie worse than The Big Hit. (After doing some thinking I think it probably is, but I still LIKE The Italian Job better.) Second thought: the ending was the best part! (Jenny’s idea to make it more worthwhile was really good, though.) Third: I love bonus episodes! (I wasn’t crazy about Morning Glory but I enjoyed your discussion about it.)

    I’ve learned a lot by listening PopD, but some of the time I find my perspective very different. What I’ve been thinking is this: do you think your rules for storytelling are universal? Perhaps PopD could do a tour across the world and watch some movies outside the English-speaking world. (Or at least add some quirky Australian ones to the mix…)

  5. I had a lengthy and incredibly brilliant post that was eaten when my computer crashed. Drat, and double drat. Perhaps I should be more succinct.

    First, I didn’t think this was that bad. I didn’t make my eyes bleed or my brain explode – that’s my criteria for a 1 POP. I didn’t think it was that good, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I’d give it a 2. It tried. It’s that funny kernel at the bottom of the bag that didn’t pop right and gets stuck in your teeth.

    I thought Charlie’s motivation was to prove to Bridger that he wasn’t a screwup and that he could be an asset to the criminal organization. I get the impression Bridger isn’t so sure about this, hence the warning about the Italian prisons serving spaghetti for every meal – although how was he supposed to know about the job already?

    RE: the bimbos – I chalked this up to a) the 60s and b) It’s Michael Caine just getting out of prison. I cut them some slack here. I would’ve liked some acknowledgement that there was play time and there was work time though. Like if after he put Lorna on the plane he brushes off his hands and says, “Okay, time to get to work.” I think it would show his focus and put the bimbos out of the main storyline.

    But there is a lot of confusing stuff here. I have seen the newer version and I think since I knew were this was basically going I didn’t get too lost. However, that doesn’t excuse the weak/ absent antagonist. And the heist gang – WAY too big for me to care about them. I assumed these were guys that average Brits of the time would recognize? Maybe not. If Hollywood were casting this now they’d do a cameo of Dale, Jr or some hot NASCAR guy. Oh, maybe that godaddy chick would be one of the drivers:)

    Oh, and Benny Hill. He does make my eyes bleed. He’s like one big fart joke to me. I’ll admit that I didn’t watch his parts this time [I saw this for the first time about a month ago after Alastair mentioned it in an earlier podcast.] If you remove his parts you don’t miss anything. In fact, it’s a better movie.

    So, that’s what I think I wrote about this movie. Other comments I had:
    re: FX – boy, I remember loving that movie. Sadly, it’s not available on Amazon, Netflix or hulu.

    Sneakers – I think a difference is that Redford’s character is reluctant to take on the heist. The energy comes from the ensemble who are all doing it for him. I think his inclination is to run again, isn’t it. Mostly I remember loving this movie because it looked like those guys had such a blast making it.

    And lastly, thanks for mentioning Sherlock on Netflix. I’d forgotten to post that. I just finished rewatching it this afternoon. So amazingly brilliant and I caught even more this time. I wish they’d gotten a stronger actor to play one of the characters but overall I’m very VERY pleased.

  6. Have either of you seen the remake? I really don’t think it was as bad as the original. And do you think that comparing originals to remakes might be a possible PopD topic one day?

  7. It couldn’t possibly be as bad as this.

    We’ve talked about doing an original/remake series but decided it would be too depressing.

  8. Annamaria: Nothing about story criticism is universal. One of the wonderful/awful things about stories is that no story is beloved by everyone but no story is hated by everyone, either. The thing about PopD is that we state our criteria up front so you know what we’re basing our criticism on. Some people don’t see the need for an antagonist in a story, and that’s fine, but at PopD, we demand an antagonist.
    But really the podcasts are more of a buffet: take what you like and leave the rest.

  9. And I just realized I forgot to change the poll again. It’s up now. And I voted so Alastiar couldn’t (only one vote from each ISP address). Ha.

  10. I finally got around to persuading the library to let me check out this DVD. And I watched it. I couldn’t believe it was /that/ bad.

    Brief anecdote:
    Once upon a time, there was a commercial. The woman has locked herself in the bathroom and is heard sobbing hysterically because she just had her hair cut. The husband is outside the bathroom knocking on the door, saying “Come on, honey. Come on out. It’s only a haircut. How bad can it be?”
    Finally she lets him in and shuts the door behind him.
    There’s a brief silence, and then you hear his voice: “Oh. That bad.”

    All the same, I can see why The Italian Job would have words like “iconic” and “seminal” thrown at it. The car scenes are very visually impressive, the early sexism scenes are set in swinging Carnaby street, and there’s some “veddy, veddy British” humor. (And no, that doesn’t include Benny Hill.) It’s like some sort of fantasy of a jolly boy’s lark, albeit a lark with tedious exposition and random scenes. If only it were attached to an actual plot, there could be a movie here.

    I was wondering if the director and set designers were influenced by the original Casino Royale movie. (Please don’t review that on PopD. I enjoyed its company, but I didn’t respect myself in the morning.)

    P.S. Whoever wrote that theme song should be be glad I don’t have a gun.

  11. Not to reignite any old flames of disagreement but just after listening to the Italian Job episode I happened to catch this on NPR:

    http://www.theworld.org/2012/07/italian-job-cliff-hanger-scene-uk/

    How fortuitous….

  12. I don’t want to be that guy, but here goes.

    I don’t like the Italian Job, I never have. In fact there are a whole host of British classics that I take umbridge with like The Italian Job and Damnbusters. But I feel like this discussion was poorly focused, the Italian Job is just not a good film for creative discussion in terms of writing a heist. Unless your sole intent was to look at a film that fails all of the criteria you’ve set for a heist.

    It is fascinating however to look at as a cultural artefact, this film is so telling of British culture in the late sixties. A lot of Caines films from this era are. Get Carter is fascinating in terms of its context and so is Alfie in the way that it brilliantly subverts the age of ‘swinging Britain’. I suppose what I’m trying to express is how I feel that context was largely ignored in this episode.

    Ps. I’ve only recently come across this podcast and am tearing through them as fast as I can and they are for the most part fantastic.

  13. Oh, be that guy, we’re good with criticism (g).

    I think the approach we took (it’s been awhile) was the same as the rest of the podcasts: how did this work as a story? As Alastair kept telling us, it is a British cultural phenom, but we really weren’t interested in culture or why it had such impact. We just wanted to figure out what the hell was going on in the story, and we couldn’t find a throughline. (I really have to listen to this again; I could be remembering this completely wrong.)

    So you’re absolutely right, we ignored the context. I think we always ignored the context in all of the films because what we were focusing on was how the story was put together. There are perfectly plotted stories that die on the screen (and on the page) so we never thought that good craft automatically meant good story. But the craft was so bad here that we kept trying to figure out how to fix it, missing, as you point out, the fact that it’s an important movie because of its cultural impact. We didn’t care, we just wanted to talk about craft.