The Bank Job is a 2008 British crime film written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Jason Statham, based on the 1971 Baker Street robbery in central London, from which the money and valuables stolen were never recovered. The producers allege that the story was prevented from being told in 1971 because of a D-Notice government gagging request, allegedly to protect a prominent member of the British Royal Family. According to the producers, this movie is intended to reveal the truth for the first time, although it includes significant elements of fiction.
The premiere was held in London on 18 February 2008, and the film was released in both the UK on 29 February 2008, and in the USA on 7 March 2008. It was a critical and financial success.
The British Security Services (MI5) have taken interest in a safe deposit box located in a bank on Londonâs Baker Street. It belongs to a black militant gangster, Michael X, and contains compromising photos of Princess Margaret, which he is keeping as insurance to keep the British authorities off his back. Martine, an ex-model who is romantically involved with an MI5 agent, is caught smuggling drugs into the country, and to avoid going to jail she makes a deal with the authorities in which she agrees to retrieve the photos.
Martine approaches her friend Terry, a struggling car salesman with criminal contacts, and tells him if he can assemble the gang to help her rob the bank heâll be richly rewarded, though she doesnât tell him about the photos in the deposit box. Terry recruits a small team, including one of his own workers, Eddie, to serve as the look-out, and Dave, a porn actor who once made films for Lew Vogel, a gangster who Dave happens to run into outside of the bank before the robbery.
The gang tunnels their way into the bank vault, where they steal money and other valuables, but Terry is suspicious when he notices that Martine only seems to be interested in one box containing nothing but photographs. After they escape together, Terry throws off a pursuit by MI5. By now the police have been alerted to the robbery by a ham radio operator who has picked up the "chatter" from the gang's walkie-talkies, and Lew learns that among the missing safe deposit boxes is his own box, which is full of evidence about his payoffs to crooked cops. He notifies a furious Michael X in Trinidad, who correctly suspects Gale Benson, the lover of a fellow militant, of spying for MI5, and subsequently murders her. Vogel decides that Daveâs presence outside that particular bank was not a coincidence, and has him tortured for information. Dave gives in, and Lew goes to Terryâs garage to kidnap Eddie. Meanwhile, a government minister learns that he is also featured in some of the stolen photos, and persuades MI5 to give the robbers new passports and safe passage in exchange for the photos in order to avoid a scandal.
One of the crooked cops on Lew's payroll shoots Dave, and threatens to shoot Eddie unless Vogel gets his evidence back. Terry agrees to deliver it to him at Paddington station at the same time he is supposed to be picking up his new passports from MI5, but has meanwhile passed on the details to an honest cop, Roy, who alerts MI5 agents. During the exchange, Lew recognises the agents, and he and the corrupt cops make a run for it. Terry pursues Lew and proceeds to beat him up, but Roy breaks up the fight and arrests Lew and his colleagues. In Trinidad, Michael X is also arrested. With his freedom and his new passport, Terry and his family are seen enjoying a carefree life on their small motor yacht off a sunny beach.
According to the epilogue, the corrupt police officers on Vogel's payroll were duly investigated, and Michael X was hanged for Gale Benson's murder. It also says that Michael X's personal files are to be kept hidden until 2054 and that Â£4 million worth of property was stolen. Vogel was imprisoned for eight years for crimes unrelated to the robbery. At least 100 safe deposit box owners have neither claimed insurance nor identified the items in their boxes.
The film is in part based on historical facts about the Baker Street robbery. A gang tunneled into a branch of Lloyds Bank at the junction of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, in London, on the night of 11 September 1971 and robbed the safe deposit boxes that were stored in the vault. The robbers had rented a leather goods shop named Le Sac two doors down from the bank, and tunneled a distance of approximately 40 feet (12 metres), passing under the Chicken Inn restaurant that was located between the shop and the bank.
Robert Rowlands, a ham radio operator, overheard conversations between the robbers and their rooftop lookout. He contacted police and tape-recorded the conversations, which were subsequently made public. The film includes lines recorded by Rowlands, such as the lookout's comment that "Money may be your god, but it's not mine, and I'm fucking off."
The film's producers claim that they have an inside source, identified in press reports as George McIndoe, who served as an executive producer. The film's plot point of the issuance of a D-Notice, because a safe deposit box held sex pictures of Princess Margaret with London gangster-turned-actor John Bindon, is entirely fictional. The possible connection to Michael X is apparently based on information provided by McIndoe, though the basis and extent of his information remains unclear. The film-makers acknowledged that they made up the character Martine, and David Denby in The New Yorker wrote that it is "impossible to say how much of the film's story is true".
The fictitious character of Lew Vogel may in part allude to pornographer and racketeer Bernie Silver, a key figure in Soho in the 1960s and early 1970s, who was jailed in 1975 for the 1956 murder of Tommy "Scarface" Smithson; and also to later events surrounding his associate the real-life pornographer James Humphreys. After an outcry in 1972 when the Sunday People published photographs of the head of the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad, Commander Kenneth Drury, spending a luxurious two-week holiday with their wives with Humphreys in Cyprus, a police raid on Humphreys' house uncovered a wallsafe containing a diary cataloguing detailed itemised payments to seventeen different officers. Humphreys was jailed for eight years in 1974 for wounding his wife's former lover. He then turned Queen's Evidence, testifying against some of Scotland Yard's most senior officers in two major corruption trials in 1977; for which he received a Royal Pardon and was released from prison. In 1994 Humphreys was jailed for twelve months for living off the earnings of prostitutes.
The major political sex scandal of the period was the resignation of Lord Lambton in 1973. Again the circumstances were somewhat different from those shown in the film. Lambton resigned after a photograph was circulated around Fleet Street by the husband of one of two prostitutes he was shown in bed with, smoking marijuana; along with more photographs of other "prominent people". The prostitute, Norma Levy, did specialise in sado-masochism as a dominatrix, but remembers Lambton as being "relatively straight", and if anything more interested in the marijuana. She had been introduced to Lambton in July 1972 by upmarket madame Jean Horn. The affair was subsequently investigated by DCS Bert Wickstead of the Serious Crime Squad, who had also led the investigations into Silver and Humphreys. A confusion led to the additional resignation of another minister, Lord Jellicoe, although he had not been directly connected with Levy.
The claims made in the film's epilogue are not all accurate. Michael X was not tried and executed for the murder of Gale Benson, but of another commune member by the name of Joseph Skerritt who was found buried along with Gale. It is also not true that Michael X's personal files are to be kept hidden until 2054.
Part of the filming took place on location at the offices of Websters, 136 Baker Street where the rooftops were actually used for lookout purposes. The majority of outside shots, namely shots including the bank and adjacent shops, were done on a specially constructed set of Baker Street, to retain an authentic feel of the period and to allow for greater control of visible elements. This partial set was extended using VFX by the Australian company Iloura.
The production crew visited the Historic Dockyard in Chatham to shoot the sequence at the side entrance of London Paddington Station where the final showdown between Terry and Lew Vogel takes place.
The film was well received by critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 79% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 142 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 69 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.
Box office performance
The film grossed US$63,754,550 on a $20,000,000 budget. The film opened at No. 4 in North America and grossed US$5,935,256 in 1,603 theatres, averaging to about US$3,703 per cinema.
- "Get It On" â" T. Rex
- "Lola" â" The Kinks
- "Hey There" â" The Basics
- "Money (That's What I Want)" â" The Storys, seen early in the film as the wedding band
- "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" â" The Hollies
- "In the Midnight Hour" â" Wilson Pickett
- "Gunshot" â" Anthony Johnson
- Official website
- The Bank Job at the Internet Movie Database
- The Bank Job at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Bank Job at Metacritic
- The Bank Job at Box Office Mojo
- The Bank Job at AllMovie