the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Paramount Home Video presents

The Italian Job HD-DVD (2003)

"I trust everyone. It's the devil inside the person I don't trust."- Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron)

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton
Other Stars: Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def, Franky G, Donald Sutherland
Director: F. Gary Gray

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:50m:25s
Release Date: 2006-08-08
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

The DVD Review and Extras Review are by Joel Cunningham

The 2003 update of the iconic 1960s British heist movie The Italian Job (the original is considered a national treasure across the pond) is, let's face it, a fairly routine crime caper redeemed by one outstanding performance. One that slickly follows every twist and curve in the screenplay, and looks good doing it. I vote we nominate the Mini-Cooper for Best Supporting Car in an Otherwise Unremarkable Motion Picture. The stylish-yet-adorable compact is the weapon of choice for classy criminals, it would seem, and is basically a co-star, considering the lengthy chase scene that runs the final 20 minutes of the movie. It's a lock to win, even against the flashy rice rockets of 2 Fast, 2 Furious.

Yeah, there are some humans in it too, to match the eye-candy of the Mini's tight, compact exterior. Like the tight, compact exterior of Charlize Theron as Stella, the daughter of a master thief (Donald Sutherland), killed un-ironically during his fateful "one last job" with partner Charlie (Mark Wahlberg). He and his team were betrayed by fellow thief Edward Norton (whose character probably had a name, but it doesn't really matter) during the titular Italian Job. A year later, Charlie recruits her in a revenge scheme that also involves wheelman Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives expert Left Ear (Mos Def), and computer guru Lyle (Seth Green).

All five of the heroes are fairly bland, defined by their nicknames and quirks (introduced in an opening montage reminiscent of the Charlie's Angels title sequence). Left Ear is deaf in one ear because of an explosive accident (I leave it a mystery as to which ear still works). Handsome Rob used to drive a Handsome cab in New York, maybe. And Lyle wants to be called "the Napster" because, he claims, Shawn Fanning stole the idea for the file-sharing program when they were roommates in college. Charlie and Stella, meanwhile, have an ill-defined and hasty romance based on non-existent chemistry between the two leads, not that chemistry matters because they are both so, so pretty.

No, what makes or breaks a heist movie is the heist itself, and The Italian Job's isn't bad. Most of the film follows the setup, as the five gather what they need to take revenge on Norton, a bland and inconsequential villain (Norton phones in his performance; he reportedly signed on under duress and because of a contractual obligation). Because they'll be stealing $35 million in gold bars, they figure they'll need a mode of transportation that can move around inside a house, which is where the Mini comes in. The cars were also the original The Italian Job's raison d'ętre , and the reintroduced models look mighty nice here, even driving around in the Los Angeles subway system during a lengthy final chase. It's not the best car chase I've ever seen, but it accomplished its goal—I really, really want to buy a Mini-Cooper now.

I can't say if the modern update lives up to the original, because I haven't seen it. I'd guess it doesn't have as much character, but it's probably more entertaining for the modern audience. It doesn't have the offbeat sensibility that made that other '60s heist remake a success, but it's lively, energetic, and not entirely brainless.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The HD image has a lot going for it. There is excellent detail and texture, and plenty of shadow detail to be seen. The waters in the Venetian canals look terrific. The background details of Stella's cluttered office come across with plenty of clarity. The bright primary colors are well-rendered, as is the modest grain, which is never distracting. There are spots with visible edge enhancement, but they're pretty irregular. On the whole, a very satisfying HD transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks have a rich and deep quality to them. In particular, the roar of speedboats, motorcycles and Mini Coopers come across with startling clarity and will have you turning your head as they whiz past. Explosions have a ton of oomph in all channels. John Powell's soundtrack has a nicely atmospheric quality. The DTS track is pretty similar to the Plus track, though lacking a bit in richness and vibrancy.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras from the original DVD are ported over, with the exception of four unrelated trailers that have been swapped for an HD upgrade of the theatrical trailer for The Italian Job. On the whole, the trade is worth it. The balance of the extras are encoded in MPEG2, with Dolby Digital+ audio tracks.

The Italian Job gets the typical treatment for a recent box-office hit: lots of bland "making-of" featurettes, and little real substance. Each of the five explores a specific aspect of production through glossy interviews, backslapping, and film clips. They are interesting exactly once, but better than nothing. Oh, and they all have neat, car-inspired names. Isn't that fun?

Pedal to the Metal: The Making of The Italian Job (18:16) covers all the bases: the script, the director's style, casting (no mention of the strong-arming required to get Norton to participate), the stunts. Some of this is also covered in the other featurettes, but here it's all wrapped up in a neat HBO bow.

Putting the Words on the Page for The Italian Job (5:48) features the husband-and-wife writing team of Donna and Wayne Powers, who reveal they only watched the original film once before writing the modernization (which they are hesitant to call a remake after Wahlberg flopped in The Truth About Charlie—I guess they couldn't be too careful, what with his character being named Charlie here as well).

The Italian Job: Driving School (5:37) reveals that the actors needed to learn to drive so their footage matched with what the stunt drivers did and so they could do a few of the simpler stunts. Theron talks about the sexism in Hollywood (they made her take extra driving lessons!), and breaks down into tears when she backs into the garage door. Not really. The Mighty Minis of The Italian Job (5:39) is a car commercial. I want one! Actually, it also reveals how the different Minis were customized to handle different stunts, and how I want one. Finally, High Octane: Stunts from Batman (7:52) is... what? Oh, I'm sorry. Stunts from The Italian Job. I guess you really do need the title of the movie in the name of every featurette. Anyway, this final piece reveals how the production team accomplished some of the flashier stunts, particularly the city chase that closes the movie.

Six rather rough deleted scenes are also included. The first, Restaurant is the longest, a funny character moment between Stella and a bad date. The rest are cut gags from the Mini-Cooper chase scene. Some are kind of neat, but they're not going to cut the best part of an action scene, right?

If you've only got a few minutes but you'd like to experience the movie again, watch the trailer. It only leaves out a few superfluous dialogue scenes, but includes every plot twist and turn (from the studio that brought you the infamous trailer for Double Jeopardy!).

Extras Grade: C+

Final Comments

The Italian Job is the best movie about a European car since The Love Bug. It's not a bad heist film, either. The HD-DVD should please fans of the film, and it will make a nice rental for everyone else.

Mark Zimmer 2006-08-07