Mini chases and big fun are abound in 'The Italian Job'

    It’s official: This is “”the summer of the big car chase.”” It seems fitting, after all, “”The Matrix Reloaded”” just rocked theaters with its freeway chase scenes, and now “”The Italian Job”” is gearing up to bring you some interesting automotive action.

    Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    The premise of “”The Italian Job”” is simple: Crooks steal a plethora of gold in Venice, and their heist is foiled by an unimaginative fellow henchman, Steve Frezelli (Edward Norton), who simultaneously kills the group’s guru Mr. Bridger (Donald Sutherland). One year later and back in the United States, the surviving crew is bitter and miss their gold. So mastermind Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg); Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), the muscle man; Lyle (Seth Green), the computer whiz; and Left Ear (Mos Def), the bomb specialist, enlist the help of Stella (Charlize Theron), a safe cracker, to get back at Frezelli.

    Don’t let the number of characters fool you; this really is a simple plot, but it’s done with class and with a simplicity fitting for a remake. That’s right; there is also an “”Italian Job”” from 1969, but the only things that tie the two films together are: gold, Italy and Mini Coopers. And what a marvelous combination it all turns out to be.

    While the outcome of the film is predictable, the steps taken to reach that point are enjoyable. The interactions between the various characters are fresh, their antics are believable and the edginess of the film keeps it moving. The bulk of the film takes place in Los Angeles where the motley crew launches a scheme to get their gold back.

    Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    It is just plain fun to watch the group tool around in their three stylish Mini Coopers and watch as Lyle hacks into L.A.’s traffic main frame. Plus, a great twist with the Ukrainian Mafia adds another dimension to the film.

    While “”The Italian Job”” oozes “”Ocean’s 11″”-charisma, you will enjoy your disgust at Norton’s character and will laugh at Green’s antics as Lyle. And interestingly enough, director F. Gary Gray (“”The Negotiator””) did not choose to capitalize on the romantic undertones of the film, which were, needless to say, inevitable and only would have detracted from the action. While the cast sails through the film with no bigger development than impending revenge, it is also apparent that they enjoy what they’re doing as crooks and as actors too.

    Unlike other major films out this summer, “”The Italian Job”” does not rely on heavy-duty computer animation to bring the zing to the screen. All the stunts seen on screen were actually performed by the actors in Mini Coopers. Had the new Minis not been distributed over the past year, this film would not, most likely, have been made.

    While it would have been enjoyable to see more footage of Venice, “”The Italian Job”” goes off without a hitch. Oh, and remember this: In the case of helicopter versus Mini Cooper, the Mini always wins!

    The Italian Job

    ****

    Starring Mark Wahlberg, and Edward Norton

    In theaters May 30

    Rated PG-13

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