Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Italian Jobs

I'm finally going to finish another movie remake comparison blog. Why? Because I've been stacking our Netflix account with movie remakes, I haven't even been watching them and I really want to see some of the movies in our queue. So after much delay, I finally watched The Italian Job's, the original 1969 film staring Michael Cain and the 2003 remake staring Mark Wahlberg.

Michael Caine as Charlie Croker; The Italian Job (1969).
I saw the remake shortly after it made it to DVD and liked it a lot. Hey, it's nothing special, but it's escapist cinema at it's best - completely implausible, but fun to watch. I made a mental note to watch the original and it only took seven or so years to accomplish.

Despite the high regard I had always heard about the film, it was really hard to watch. I actually stopped watching it midway through and it took several weeks before I worked up the courage to finishing it. Quincy Jones' soundtrack was annoying and the story and characters were, frankly, boring.

Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker; The Italian Job (2003).
Much like the movie, I've started and stopped and rewritten this blog a dozen times. Why? Because I think it's hard to watch and critically evaluate films from the late 1960's fairly. They just made movies different then.

Look at some of the top grossing films in that period: Von Ryan's Express (#10, 1965), The Graduate (#2, 1967), Bonnie & Clyde (#3, 1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (#9, 1968),  Midnight Cowboy (#4, 1969) - These are gritty, character driven pieces that all basically end abruptly in tragedy, loss, despair and agony. Barring The Graduate and maybe Midnight Cowboy, they all are pretty hard to watch now.

Loading the gold; The Italian Job (1969).
Admittedly, The Italian Job isn't really gritty, for the most part it showcases London's swinging 60's, but it's ends ambiguously, with tragedy mere moments away. Did I give the ending away? Sort of, but really, if you haven't seen it yet, are you really going to rush out and watch it now?

While there are a number of similarities during the car chases, these are two separate films that share very little resemblance to each other. And maybe that's okay. I'm not sure you could do a shot for shot remake of the original now; it would bore us all to tears. Either that or it would be x rated; it was the swinging 60's.

Entering the subway; The Italian Job (2003).
The remake nods to the original, but exists as something all it's own. And for that, both films have their own place in history. Lets face it, neither is going to be remembered for their socio-political impact or their critical evaluation of people during a specific period of time. These are escapist films made to thrill and excite. They evoke visceral reactions; fast cars, sexy people, the rush of breaking the law.

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