The Italian Job Blu-ray features poor video and decent audio in this mediocre Blu-ray release
The plan was flawless, the job executed perfectly and the escape clean. The only threat mastermind thief Charlie Croker never saw coming was from a member of his own crew. After pulling off an amazing gold bullion heist from a heavily guarded palazzo in Venice, Italy, Charlie and his gang — inside man Steve, computer genius Lyle, wheelman Handsome Rob, explosives expert Left-Ear and veteran safecracker Bridger — can't believe it when one of them turns out to be a double-crosser. Now, with the help of Stella, a beautiful nerves-of-steel safecracker, they plan to re-steal the gold by tapping into Los Angeles' traffic control system, manipulating signals and creating the biggest traffic jam in L.A. history.
For more about The Italian Job and the The Italian Job Blu-ray release, see the The Italian Job Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
A word of warning to anyone who relies on a review when skimming the shelves of their local videostore: heist flicks make me weak in the knees. They don't have to be very original, they don't have to be intellectually stimulating... they don't even have to toss any showcase performances or plot developments into the mix. As long as the film's central caper fills me with wonder and makes me feel like a wide-eyed, five-year old boy, I fall in love every time. With that in mind, allow me the pleasure of recommending The Italian Job, one of the more entertaining modern heist flicks to hit theaters since Ocean's Eleven.
A loose American remake of the 1969 British classic of the same name, The Italian Job follows the tangled affairs of a ragtag bunch of criminals – veteran mastermind John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), upstart Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg, filling Michael Caine's proverbial shoes), shifty inside-man Steve (Ed Norton), getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives expert Left Ear (Mos Def), and hacker extraordinaire Lyle (Seth Green) – who come together to help Bridger pull off a genre staple: his last heist. But when the group is betrayed by one of their own and John is killed, Charlie decides to get revenge by whatever means necessary. Enlisting John's daughter, a safecracker named Stella (Charlize Theron), as well as each of the remaining members of the team, Charlie concocts an elaborate heist he hopes will score his crew a nice payday and punish John's killer.
To cut right to the chase, The Italian Job is a blast. I don't want to suggest there are many meaty character beats to invest in or many memorable twists to speak of, but the film is loaded with blazingly innovative action, breathtaking stuntwork, and hilarious banter. While Wahlberg and Theron function well in their individual roles and excel at the limited job they've been hired to do, it's actually Norton, Statham, Mos Def, and Green that steal the show, filling their scenes with amusing exchanges, light-footed humor, and, in one actor's case, insatiable villainy. Paired with the film's intricately choreographed car chases, complex set pieces, and hyperkinetic thrills, the barebones story barrels along towards its inevitable conclusion and really gets your blood pumping. At times, the whole thing borders on entertaining crap, but a well conceived heist and a welcome injection of madcap Mini Cooper madness kept me hooked from the opening betrayal to the end credits.
On the flipside, fans of the original Peter Collinson film will find the remake to be a flimsy homage at best. Beyond the basic premise and the use of Minis during the flick's final heist, director F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator, A Man Apart, and Be Cool) has abandoned much of what made the original such a classic. The action is similar, but character development has been sidetracked, subplots have been shelved, and many of the criminals have been created specifically for the remake. In fact, the new version works solely because of its sharp wit, amusing characters, and flashy action sequences. If you strip away all the extraneous style and pizzazz, there isn't much substance to be found.
While I'll admit my appreciation of the genre could be clouding my judgment, I thought it was a cinch to ignore The Italian Job's flaws and simply enjoy it for what it is: a fast-paced hybrid of classy modern heist flicks like Ocean's Eleven and hollow mindless actioners like The Transporter. Will everyone enjoy it as much as I did? Probably not. Even so, anyone who can divorce themselves from their high-brow, cinematic favorites long enough to sit through an entertaining thrill ride will find plenty to enjoy in The Italian Job.
Released in 2006 (before Paramount had a handle on their high definition releases), The Italian Job features a predictably problematic 1080p/MPEG-2 encode that begs for a re-release with a more proficient transfer. First and foremost, glaring edge enhancement and artificial sharpening are visible in almost every shot -- foreground objects are disconnected from the rest of the image, edges are defined by thin but annoying white lines, and skin textures look slightly unnatural. Worse still, the film's grain fields fluctuate wildly at times, light digital noise often invades the image, minor aliasing makes its presence known, the print is dotted with white and black flecks, and artifacting is a frequent issue. It looks to me as if the studio simply tossed the DVD transfer onto a Blu-ray disc to take advantage of the format's inherent upgrades. Luckily, those fundamental upgrades help the picture look marginally better than its standard definition counterpart. Colors are more vivid and stable (albeit washed out at times), fine detail is sharper and more refined (despite a few hazy shots), and blacks are deeper and more consistent (even though they occasionally exhibit a strange blue tint). Contrast is also a bit unstable and shadow delineation isn't as revealing as more recent BD releases, but neither shortcoming hinders the overall presentation as much as the other issues I encountered.
Unfortunately, The Italian Job can't compete with the latest and greatest discs hitting the shelves today. It's a decent release to pick up at a reduced price, but I wouldn't criticize any fan who decides to wait for Paramount to issue a remastered edition.
If you already own The Italian Job, you can stop searching for the DTS 5.1 mix listed on the back cover... it's simply not on the disc. The Blu-ray edition's featured mix is a passable 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that does a fine job handling the film's jazzy score and frenetic chases. Dynamics are impressive for a standard audio track, boasting weighty low-end thooms, hearty impacts, and stable treble tones. Pans are also smooth, allowing on-screen Minis to naturally whiz from one channel to the next without a hitch. Effects have an organic quality that make the various action-oriented beats more authentic, but spotty directionality results in a slightly superficial soundscape. Likewise, dialogue is crisp and well prioritized, but passive rear speaker support makes much of the track a front-heavy experience. Sure, the inclusion of a lossless audio track in a future release of the film would hopefully resolve the majority of the issues I have with this particular mix, but only if the original sound design isn't as flat and limited as it is here.
All things considered, The Italian Job sounds pretty good. I can't say its standard Dolby track will blow you away in this age of DTS HD Master Audio and Uncompressed PCM, but it also doesn't suffer from any debilitating problems that will distract you from the film itself.
While The Italian Job ports over all of the special features from the DVD release of the film, they make for a short and disappointing supplemental package. The disc includes little more than a paltry collection of shallow featurettes and boring deleted scenes (presented in standard definition no less) that fail to capture the spirit of the film itself.
Pedal to the Metal (SD, 18 minutes): A standard, EPK-styled behind-the-scenes featurette that digs into the production, the on-set atmosphere, and the film's action
High Octane (SD, 8 minutes): An all-too-short exploration of the film's practical special effects
Putting the Words on the Page (SD, 6 minutes): The writers chat about their script, its development, and the differences between their version and the original film
Driving School (SD, 6 minutes): A brief look at the stunt training the cast members were given to prepare them for driving the film's Minis
Mighty Minis (SD, 5 minutes): A profile of the many cars used to create the film's climactic heist and chase sequence
Deleted Scenes (SD, 9 minutes): A wisely-cut collection of scenes that look even worse than the 480p featurettes
The Italian Job is a breezy piece of pop entertainment packed with scene-chewing performances, witty banter, and wildly engaging heist sequences. Sadly, this early Blu-ray release isn't as impressive as the film itself. It has to contend with a poorly mastered transfer, an average Dolby Digital audio track, and an anemic set of tedious supplements. It still offers DVD owners a solid upgrade, but anyone strapped for cash should wait for Paramount to remaster the film and re-release another BD in the future.
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