The Italian Job 1969 vs. 2003

If you like high-speed chases in Mini Coopers, then The Italian Job is the movie for you. But wait! There are two versions of this film. So, which one should you watch? Well, that depends. Your friendly neighborhood BrikHaus has watched them both, and I’m going to pit them head to head, so you can decide for yourself.
The Italian Job (1969)
This is one of Michael Caine’s most popular and beloved films, and I can’t understand why. The marketing makes you think this is going to be a rip-roaring caper film, especially with the heavy leaning on Minis being used in some kind of high-speed getaway. Unfortunately, there is nothing high-speed about the original Italian Job.
Caine plays Charlie Croker, a criminal recently released from prison. He immediately goes on a mini-James Bond spree getting a fancy suit and sleeping with hot chicks. After that, he recruits a gang to perform a big job in Italy. Clearly, prison has reformed this man. I’m glad that the justice system works so well in England.

The bulk of the movie forms the setup with Caine planning the heist with his crew. There is a short montage of preparation, preceded and followed by huge swaths of nothingness. There’s lots of talking with absolutely nothing happening. I’m pretty sure they could use this movie as a cure for insomnia. Anyway, I held on for dear life, clinging to the belief that once they got to the heist, the movie would spring into action. It never did.
Once Caine’s crew steals the gold and transfers it to three Minis, they try to get out of town with the police in pursuit. What follows next is the most boring, lazy, low-speed chase since O.J. Simpson in his white Ford Bronco.
The cars drive around, single file, with usually only one or two cop cars behind them. They drive lackadaisically from location to location with the cops keeping a nice safe distance behind. There is no adrenaline, testosterone, nitrous, or horsepower behind this chase scene. It’s got to be the most boring fucking chase scene I’ve ever seen. It’s a chase scene for fuck’s sake, make it exciting!
The movie wraps up with Caine’s crew getting away, but their dipshit van driver accidentally steers their getaway RV off a mountain side. The final shot is of them teetering on the cliff, about to go over, and Caine stating he’s got a great idea. So, the movie doesn’t even have an ending. We don’t know if they get away or die. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s impossible to give a shit about anything in this movie. Live or die, whatever.
Verdict: Shitty
The Italian Job (2003)
This time around, Mark Wahlberg plays Charlie Croker. Other than having the same title, main character, and Minis, these two movies couldn’t be more different.
The movie begins in Venice. Donald Sutherland plays a veteran thief and expert safecracker. He’s cooked up one last heist (it’s always the last heist, isn’t it?), and hires a crew of American thieves (and Jason Statham) to perform the job. The job itself is actually kind of cool. They use explosives to drop a safe underwater, and while Sutherland cracks it in SCUBA gear, a decoy boat speeds away with a fake safe to lure away the cops.
After the heist ends, the crew is betrayed by one of their own, Edward Norton. He manages to steal all the gold they just stole, and kills Sutherland in the process. Subsequently, Wahlberg vows revenge, and also plots how to steal back all the gold.
The bulk of the film plays out like a standard heist movie. Each member of the crew has a special, if rather generic, skill: driver, explosives expert, computer guy, etc. The movie follows each crew member’s job, their ideas, their setbacks, and their triumphs in an intertwining fashion. Wahlberg, as their leader, mostly stands around and looks tough, not doing much of anything really.
In standard heist movie fashion, the plan goes awry and they are forced to change it at the last minute. They divert L.A. traffic, capture Norton’s gold, and make off with it in a convoy of three Minis. The two nods to the original film are the crazy city traffic (Turin in the original) and the Minis (red, white, and blue).
Fortunately, the finale is where the remake significantly outshines the original. The chase scene is actually exciting. The cars drive fast, they careen through underground channels, and the bad guys are hot on their tail. This film delivers the heart-pumping adrenaline rush that was expected but never delivered on before. My only complaint is that the final chase is too short, and a bit more of the Minis crashing around L.A. would have been nice.
The movie actually has a real sense of closure, and you know what happens to everyone when the screen fades to black.
Verdict: Average
So, which movie is the one to watch? Like I said before, that depends on your taste. If you like 1960s movies or you like Michael Caine, then you’ll prefer the original. If you like car chases that are exciting and a movie with an actual ending, you’ll prefer the remake.
I think the greatest sin of the original is how fucking boring it is. A friend of mine loves super-slow, super-boring, super-foreign films. And even this guy thought the original Italian Job was too boring for his taste. So, if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
Okay, so the answer is obvious. Even though the Italian Job remake is by no means a masterpiece, it’s heads and tails above the original. Watch it and skip the other.
Verdict: Italian Job (2003) > Italian Job (1969)

3 Responses to “The Italian Job 1969 vs. 2003”

  1. November 28, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I, too, am not interested in foreign films unless they’re SUPER-foreign films.

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November 2017


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