In This Essay I will look at various different aspects of the original 1968 classic movie, The Italian Job, and its blockbuster remake version released in May 2003, also titled The Italian Job. In order to present a thorough analysis of the comparison between the two versions, I was obviously extremely keen on watching them both several times before making up my mind on certain aspects and characters.
I will look at the themes of both films, paying careful attention as to how these were tackled in each version – i. . the ways in which they may differ or be similar. The original version, ‘The Italian Job’ (1968), starring Michael Caine and Benny Hill, featured Charlie Croker as the master safecracker and instigator, masterminding a heist of four million dollars in gold bars from the Italians (in Venice, Italy). Although a recent parolee, Charlie goes right back into his old line of work. He must set up the biggest traffic jam Italy has ever seen in order to pull it off.
Having, a now considered stereotypical, English nature wasn’t enough for the film makers, so when they added a background theme tune to accompany his character it became more of a statement of British dominance. Charlie isn’t the only person who is associated with this aura of English superiority, as even the people in prison have this patriotic-ness aided by music. It seems pretty clear in this movie that the British are made to seem much smarter than every other person from another country, especially emphasizing their out-witting skills against the Italians.
In one of the scenes depicting the crooks’ escape, (and always thereafter), following their success in acquiring the gold bars, the audience is presented with the idea that the Italians are, not only inferior to the British, but also generally not very smart – the only Italians who escape from this representation are the Mafia. The chief of police gives order for a large vehicle, which was carrying cars itself, to drive into the doors in which the gold was being stolen in order for the police to arrest the culprits.
Ridiculously, the driver of that truck did as instructed with no positive result for the police, as one of the cars the vehicle was carrying fell off, and conveniently landed on the chief of police’s car. The stupidity and incompetence of the Italian police, is countered by the menacing Mafia, who are clearly respected. At the beginning of the movie, the audience is given reason to believe that the mafia are capable of dispatching of the corps of disrespectful rivals or disobedient/ infidel fellow members (it isn’t clear, but the audience is led to deduct such possibilities).
This opening scene gives no information as such to that extent, but the imagery immediately paints a picture in one’s mind as to what could possibly have happened previously. The Mafia have a stereotypical image of being dressed in black with long coats/ suits, and in some cases also wearing black hats. The mood is serious and so is the background music, and once the (supposed) Mafia boss has given order for a car to be dropped into the river, so is a reef.
The reef signifies death, and it almost makes it seem like a poor attempt at recreating a funeral – which in itself might strike the audience with the idea of a merciless nature typically associated with the Mafia. In the 2003 remake of ‘The Italian Job’, the audience is again initially made to associate incompetence and silliness with the Italians, although this time with the Mafia in contrast to the original film. In the scene in which Charlie and his cronies steal the gold and successfully get away, it almost seems unrealistically too easy, despite all the planning.
But a sudden twist reveals that there is a double-crosser on the team, and that the Italians had in fact tricked them into believing they had beaten them. This film doesn’t portray the crooks as superior to the rest immediately, although in both cases the teams of specialists that are brought together, are all amiable villains. In the 1968 ‘The Italian Job’, the team is composed of several members, each befitting their purpose for the job at hand. Subconsciously, the audience is given the stereotypical image of the character adapted to a certain job.
For example, the computer genius is a deprived weirdo with an affinity for overweight women – who wears glasses and a scientist’s coat (i. e. considered a geek’s look). In the new version the stereotype hasn’t changed much in the role of Seth Green, who has filled the shoes of computer wiz, except in that he is younger and does not wear glasses (the style of clothing is also different). Yet his character seems deprived of a social life and the ‘cool’ elements. An example of this is when Lyle (Seth Green) and Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) are going after a van and uniform for the unsuspected infiltration into the enemy’s home.
Whilst Handsome Rob is talking and flirting to the young woman who has what they need, Lyle is mimicking their voices – which seems like a pretty childish and sad thing to do (although very comedic). Another stereotype that is shown particularly in this scenario is that of the sweet-talking English gentleman who can have any woman he wants. This idea is comparable to that of legendary British hero, James Bond, whose charm had women going after him throughout the Bond movies.
In ‘The Italian Job’ (1968), Charlie Croker isn’t exactly the one who formulates the plan entirely, as the instructions on how to carry out the plan successfully are taken from a video tape filmed by a man who at the time Charlie was watching was already dead. There is also a scene when Charlie visits the man’s widow, during which she appears to show interest in him. This flirtatious representation of women is evident throughout the film, and women are portrayed as simple-minded sex objects.
An example of this would be when Charlie is released from prison, and his supposed ‘girlfriend’ leaves an unexpected present for him in his room – this being a group of attractive young women in their lingerie. Although the audience isn’t given visual proof of the events after he is dragged into the room with them, certain comments and expressions that follow make it clear that their purpose was for a night of intimacy. It is so clear therefore how much times have progressed since the making of the 1968 version, and the 2003 ‘The Italian Job’.
One of the leading roles in the 2003 movie is the character of Stella Bridger, played by the incredibly attractive Charlize Theron (proof that women still represent sexuality). Her role in the film, expectedly as the daughter of the highly recognised master safecracker John Bridger, is to break into the safe holding the gold. Such central role to the storyline was never given to any female character in the older version, which shows a drastic increment in the respect and admiration of females in predominantly ‘male’ roles.
An actual example of women taking on characters generally associated with males, is when Stella is racing against time on the streets of Los Angeles in her MINI Cooper and does an incredible hand-brake manoeuvre to park between two cars which left very little space. When she enters a building (presumably where her office is), she asks a secretary how long she took, and after she’s replied she adds “You’re the man! ” – American slang for telling someone they’re good at something, usually referring to a man.
Another great and noticeable difference between the two movies is in that the storyline for the original basically consists in the elaboration and execution of the plan for attaining the gold from the Italians. Whereas in the remake, stealing the gold from the Italians isn’t the centre of the plot, but is rather simply the introduction serving as reason for the vengeance for John Bridger’s death. Stella feels angry when approached by the man she retains responsible for her fathers death (Charlie) and dismisses him, but after an emotional scene showing her contemplating the idea of revenge, she gives in and decides to join the group.
The audience may have seen this decision as ‘selfish’ at first and rightly so, perhaps to let the man by whose gun her father had been murdered suffer death by her own hand. When Charlie tells Handsome Rob “she’s in”, he asks him if it’s a good idea seen as though she is so emotionally involved. This suggests that there is still an idea that women aren’t as able to control their feelings as men. Charlie reassures him that they are all emotional over the situation. Following this scene the characters reunite once again, so that they might be introduced to the audience properly, through Stella having to meet them all for the first time.
The characters’ pasts are shown in flashbacks, showing their importance to the team. This is different from the original ‘The Italian Job’ movie, in which there was little if any information on certain character’s backgrounds. The flashback technique in the modern version, allows the audience to understand what the character was feeling at that particular time – and possible find out things that aren’t evident at present. Both movies are renowned for the vehicles they use and the manner in which they are driven. One protagonist which stars in both movies (although having undergone some modifications) remains the mini.
In both ‘The Italian Job’ versions, the minis driven during the gold heist have three colours which the audience may not have noticed are the same. These being red, white and blue, all three colours present in both the American and British flags, which magnifies the focus on patriotism. In the 2003 movie, the team brought together is fully American, excluding Handsome Rob, who is gives a positive representation of the British. Unlike the English in the original, he doesn’t adapt a posh attitude, yet delivers the message of being a gentleman.
He is also assigned the, very British car, Aston Martin – which may have been done to mirror his nature. Similarly, in the 1968 version, Charlie Croker drives a , which at the time would have been considered a precious vehicle. During the car chase in ‘The Italian Job’ (1968), it is so obvious that all the team’s planning has rendered them unmatchable, as the Italian police cannot keep up with their seemingly superior driving. The three minis drive through the streets of Venice, surprisingly chased by only one police car which stands no chance in catching them all of course but it certainly makes a good comedic stunt sequence.
As the cars drive up an arched monument which conveniently splits in three, the police car follows, and when the cars are at the ends of the arches the policemen stupidly get out of their car only to be chased back in by the minis who then drive back down. This is an excellent example of how silly the Italian authority is represented. In the 2003 ‘The Italian Job’, the first escape is more calculated by a series of events (compared to the 1968 version), and is definitely more elaborate.
The team of thieves is creating a getaway diversion on a speedboat in the narrow water-lanes of Venice. They are spectacularly successful, although it is later revealed that it was the double-crosser’s (Steve Frezelli played by Edward Norton) plan together with the Italians, to make it seem as thought they’d been beaten. In the original movie, there is almost never any doubt of their success, and their well planned escape with the gold is even accompanied by a jolly music in the background which already gives the idea of triumph.
Character representations usually revolve around a selection of people, except in the case of the racial minority in ‘The Italian Job’. In both versions of the film there is a black man pertaining to the group of villains brought together by one leader – (in both cases Charlie Croker). In the original version the black man has a very minor role as the rarely seen driver, but in the eyes of the audience he would probably be remembered as the guy who prevented a surely successful end to the movie.
Towards the end, when the truck he was driving goes half off the road (i. . hanging from a cliff) the audience may subconsciously place the blame for this accident on him – despite the fact that the other accomplices where creating a lot of distraction by celebrating their success. In the modern version of the film, there is also only one black person with a central role, except this time he has a more vital presence and more dialogue. Left Ear (played by Mos Def) takes on the part of the explosives expert – which therefore immediately gives him more of an intelligent part than the other black character.
Regardless of this improvement in the ideologies surrounding black people, during the scene in which the team are discussing their plans for their rich futures (believing that everything had undoubtedly gone as planned), Handsome Rob and even Lyle have ‘cool’ plans for how to spend their money (involving women and sex), but Left Ear’s only dream is to do something ‘sensible’ and buy a house in Spain with a room for just his shoes.
This may not necessarily be a negative representation, but certain audiences may believe it to be unrealistic. The ending to the 1968 ‘The Italian Job’ is unconventional and leaves the audience with a cliff-hanger which has had critics commenting on since release. There are no hints as to whether they will get out of the mess richer, or all dye trying. Whereas the modern version has been criticized for their conventional happy ending, in which everything turns out predictably well for the ‘good guys’ (which are actually thieves).