ⓘ The Bank Job


ⓘ The Bank Job

The Bank Job is a 2008 heist thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson, written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, 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, allegedly to protect a prominent member of the British Royal Family. According to the producers, this film 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. The film was released in the UK on 29 February 2008 and in the US on 7 March 2008. It has grossed $64.8 million worldwide.


1. Plot

The British Security Services MI5 have taken interest in a safety deposit box that is located in a Lloyds Bank branch on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road. 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 Love, an ex-model who is romantically involved with MI5 agent Tim Everett, is caught at Heathrow Airport smuggling drugs into the country, and to avoid going to jail, she makes a deal with the authorities whereby she agrees to retrieve the photos.

Martine approaches her friend Terry, a struggling East London car salesman with criminal contacts, and tells him that if he can assemble the gang to help her rob the bank, he will be richly rewarded, though she does not tell him about the photos in the deposit box. Terry recruits a small team, including one of his own workers, Eddie, Dave, Kevin, Bambas, and Guy Singer. While scouting the bank, Dave runs into local gangster Lew Vogel, for whom he has made several pornographic films.

The gang rents a leather goods shop near the bank and tunnels into the vault. They loot the safety deposit boxes, but Terry becomes suspicious when Martine seems to display intense interest in one box. The police are alerted to the robbery by a ham radio operator who overhears the gangs walkie-talkie communications, but by the time they locate the bank, the gang has already gotten away. The robbery rattles many important underworld figures who had used the bank, including Lew Vogel, who kept a ledger of police payoffs inside. He notifies a furious Michael X in Trinidad, who correctly suspects Gale Benson - the lover of his associate Hakim Jamal - of spying for MI5, and subsequently murders her. Vogel decides that Dave’s presence outside that particular bank was not a coincidence, and has him kidnapped and tortured for information. Dave gives in, and Lew has Gerald Pyke and Nick Burton - two corrupt policemen working on his payroll - kidnap Eddie at Terrys garage. Meanwhile, Terry discovers explicit photographs of important government officials among their loot and uses them to secure passports and new identities for the gang.

Vogels men track down and murder Bambas and Guy Singer. Eddie refuses to cooperate with Vogel, who has Gerald execute Dave and threatens to kill Eddie unless Terry delivers the ledger to him; Terry agrees to meet up with Vogel at Paddington Station to exchange the ledger for Eddie. He arranges for the meeting to happen at the same time as he will be picking up the new passports. Meanwhile, Terry sends Kevin to honest cop Roy Given with a page torn from the ledger. Vogel becomes spooked and tries to flee, but Terry attacks and beats him - only to be arrested by the police. However, Given has Terry released and uses the information he supplied to arrest Lew, Gerald and Nick. In Trinidad, Michael X is arrested as well. Eddie inherits Terrys car dealership, while Kevin and Martine prepare to begin new lives with their share of the money. Terry and his family leave England and enjoy a carefree life on a boat in a sunny location.


2. Historical background

The film is in part based on historical facts about the Baker Street robbery. A gang tunnelled 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 tunnelled a distance of approximately 40 feet 12 metres, passing under the Chicken Inn restaurant that was located between the shop and the bank. The tunnelling took three weeks working on weekends.

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 lookouts comment that "Money may be your god, but its not mine, and Im fucking off."

The films producers said that they have an inside source, identified in press reports as George McIndoe, who was an executive producer. The films plot point of the issuance of a D-Notice by MI5 requesting no further press reports, on grounds of national security, because a safe deposit box held sex pictures of Princess Margaret with London gangster-turned-actor John Bindon, is 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 Daily Mail interviewed a convicted robber, who claims to be a perpetrator and he indicated that embarrassing photos including child pornography were found but deliberately left behind for the police. 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 films 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 imprisoned 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 People published photographs of the head of the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad, Commander Kenneth Drury, spending a luxurious two-week holiday with Humphreys and their wives in Cyprus, a police raid on Humphreys house uncovered a wallsafe containing a diary cataloguing detailed itemised payments to seventeen different officers. Humphreys was imprisoned for eight years in 1974 for wounding his wifes former lover. He then turned Queens Evidence, testifying against some of Scotland Yards 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 imprisoned for twelve months for living off the earnings of prostitutes.

The film includes multiple historical grace notes. The outlandish introduction of Michael Xs character showing him leading a landlord locked in a slave collar is not dramatic licence but is based on a similar historical incident. An unremarked passing glance at a photo of John Lennon found in Michael Xs safety deposit box is inspired by John Lennons support for Michael Xs "Black House" headquarters depicted in the film, and Lennon posting his bail. A moment of great tension in the film, where the police visit the vault while the robbers are inside, did occur. Not only did the robbers use the thermal lance shown in the film, but also employed explosives. Contrary to the epilogue, Michael X was not tried and executed for the murder of Gale Benson, but rather for the murder of Joseph Skerritt, another commune member, who was found buried along with Benson. It is also not true that Michael Xs personal files are to be kept classified until 2054.


3. Production

Part of the filming took place on location at the offices of Websters, 136 Baker Street, where the rooftops were used for lookout locations. The exterior scenes of the bank and adjacent shops were done at Pinewood Studios on a specially constructed set of Baker Street, to retain an authentic feel of the period and to allow for greater control. This partial set was extended using visual effects.

The production also shot on location inside the Aldwych Underground station, and at Paddington station as itself. The crew used Chatham Historic Dockyard to shoot the sequence at the side entrance of Paddington, where the final showdown between Terry and Lew Vogel takes place.


4. Reception

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 79% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 144 reviews. The consensus reads: "Well cast and crisply directed, The Bank Job is a thoroughly entertaining British heist thriller." Metacritic reports the film has an average score of 69 out of 100 based on 32 reviews.


5. Soundtrack

  • "Lola" – The Kinks
  • "Get It On" – T. Rex
  • "Hey There" – The Basics
  • "Money Thats What I Want" – The Storys, seen early in the film as the wedding band
  • "In the Midnight Hour" – Wilson Pickett
  • "Gunshot" – Anthony Johnson
  • "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" – The Hollies