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The Italian Job: Special Collector's Edition (2003)

Occasionally when Hollywood throws a lot of money to remake a classic, they get it right. After all, while a lot of filmmakers in Tinseltown don't necessarily weave métiers of wit and subtlety, many of them can deliver swift, entertaining action pictures, and unlike any other film industry in the world, they have access to the sort of budgets that can attract top-notch, international talent — in addition to blowing up a lot of stuff and wrecking an obscene amount of cars. Enter 2003's The Italian Job — the 1969 original starring Michael Caine is a classic, overflowing with the sardonic, cheeky verve that makes British films so uniquely British. Perhaps aware that there was no point in trying to outdo the original, Paramount recruited F. Gary Gray to helm a new production — and as Alfred Hitchcock said when he went into pre-production on Daphne Du Maurier's The Birds, "We're only keeping the title and throwing everything else out." Well, not quite everything. The predecessor may have featured Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and Benny Hill, but the characters everyone remembers most are three Mini Coopers. And thus, for the 2003 Job, BMW's new, souped-up (and much larger) Coops were brought on board — more than 30 would be modified, chopped, or wrecked before it was all over. Mark Wahlberg stars as Charlie Croker, a master thief who has learned at the foot of his mentor, John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Bridger has sworn to retire, but one last job pulls him back in the game: an elaborate heist in Venice involving millions of dollars in gold bullion. Filling out Charlie's crew are driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), hacker Lyle (Seth Green), demolitions man Left Ear (Mos Def), and entry man Steve (Edward Norton). But after the job, it turns out that Steve had his own agenda — and after being left for dead, Charlie & Co. are hell-bent on some payback. They recruit Brigder's safe-cracking daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) for an even more elaborate heist, this time in L.A., where they will create the world's largest traffic jam and claim the loot for themselves. The Italian Job, thankfully, has no interest in matching the original, playfully striking out on its own with updated characters, a fresh script, and new locations. And for that, it recalls John McTiernan's glittery 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, which exchanged a bit of '60s stodginess for lively, sexy contemporary filmmaking. The cast in the new Italian Job is likable enough, in particular the supporting players — Jason Statham, Mos Def, and Seth Green show off their affable cinema personas, so much so that Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron come off a bit bland by comparison (Wahlberg, alas, is no Caine). Edward Norton, who could make itemized deductions sound compelling, is wonderfully nasty as the villainous Steve, sneering his way through a fun role as the mustachioed turncoat. And Donald Sutherland lends some elegance to the film as the gang's eldest member. Throw in some Mini Coopers and a nail-biting final chase sequence, and there's no cause to complain — when Hollywood gets it right, it's pretty damn good. Paramount's DVD release of The Italian Job: Special Collector's Edition features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Supplements include a string of featurettes — "Pedal to the Metal: The Making of The Italian Job" (18 min.), "Putting Words on the Page" (5 min.), "Driving School" (5 min.), "The Mighty Minis" (5 min.), and "High Octane Stunts" (7 min.). Also on board are six deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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