The Italian Job (1969)

Directed by: Peter Collinson Starring:  Michael CaineNoel Coward

Ah, the perfect crime.  Four million dollars in gold up for grabs. Every detail planned, escape routes noted, backup plans made.  And the planner tossed over a cliff in his flashy sports car, courtesy of the Mafia.

Of course, this guy even has a plan (and instructional film) ready in case of death.  And that's where Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) steps in.

Fresh out of prison, Charlie's prepared to embark on an Italian job.  Picked up from the clink in a stolen car by his girl Lorna (Margaret Blye), Charlie has just enough time to visit the tailor and have a nice welcome-back party before his briefing on the job.  To Charlie's surprise, instructions about the job are delivered by the planner's widow, and he's no longer just part of the gang – he has to lead the heist.

Charlie can gather the gang, but he also has to get the funds together for training and travel.  For this he has to persuade Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward) to back the job.  Which involves breaking into a lavatory, and then a little luck with a well-timed news article regarding a multi-million dollar deal for China to back a Fiat plant.  There's a guarantee of gold, a program in place to hack the computer-controlled traffic system in Turin and an Italy-England football match in place to cover the presence of the Brits running the job.  All they have to do is dodge the cops and the Mafia and they're good to go.

The second half is the most entertaining bit, covering transport car training (e.g. crashing a lot of Mini Coopers), the nervous heist crew arguing about who's going to sit in the back of the motorcar, a Land Rover creeping through tiny Italian alleys like a stealthy beast, and three hot getaway cars being tossed over a cliff.  Oh, and there's also that legendary car chase, with the Mini Coopers racing down sidewalks (and one of the heisters snatching a Cornish hen off an unsuspecting sidewalk café patron's plate), up ramps, over the rooftops, through the sewers, and pretty much on any terrain they can.

If you:

  • Like Ocean's 11/12/13
  • Like car stunts and chases
  • Find the idea of 1960s computers being run by what look like giant spools of film amazing
  • Like an action film that's witty but not slapstick

Put it in the queue!

If you:

  • Can't imagine a G-rated film being entertaining to anyone over the age of 5
  • Never side with the 'bad guys'
  • Get panic attacks at the mere thought of a traffic jam, much less watching a full-blown traffic cluster with horns honking, etc.

Don't put it in the queue.