I Saw A Film!

Starring the iconic Michael Caine

The stylish caper movie is built around stealing a mass of gold sent by China to the Fiat car company in Turin, Italy. Our protagonists have exacting plans and practice like a D-Day landing.

Caine is a bit of a playboy having gotten out of prison and introduced to a bevy of attractive ladies right off the bat. He’s smartly dressed and I suppose represents a certain kind of criminal of the era. There is some accent fun from the various team members brought together to satisfy the job. And of course, Cain levels the memorable phrase, ever repeated by Steve Coogan in his travel films with Rob Bryon, “You were only meant to blow the bloody doors off!” Yup, it’s that movie.

My whole life I’ve been listening to references to this film. The thing that surprised me was how comic it was. I was not expecting perhaps the best known film about a gold heist to be so silly. I mean, most of it seems like it’s just an advert for Mini Coopers. Watch the cute little cars driving down busy Italian roads, around impressive architecture, heck, even on said architecture, in tunnels, through canals and basically foiling polizia attempts to catch them like a set of colorful gumballs rolling about some kid’s Lego city (the Lego Turin set! Why not?). It really feels like about half the movie is filled with this interminable silliness.

I was also surprised that this caper, supposedly a magnificent and ingenious caper that needed to be executed because it was just so bloody wonderful, relied so much on shoving themselves in a Range Rover into a massive traffic jam they caused electronically. Literally, waiting for the armored car, and Caine yelling “Ok, now!” and managing to join traffic at their preferred moment. Hell I can’t manage to do that on Glenwood South in Raleigh on any given Thursday night. People will fight you. They will die for their position in the endless line of going nowhere.

At some point the team looks like Devo taking an armored car. Also, Benny Hill stars as a computer wiz / professor with, you guessed it, a pervy attitude about the ladies, especially some of the plumper specimens (and while I level the derogatory epithet “perv” at Mr. Hill (as others certainly have), he managed to produce a hit television show that was over-stuffed with the sort of ribald jokes that would make our ancestors blush. That wonderfully clownish and sexy program lasted from 1969 to 1989 (just before Hill’s death), so clearly, he’s not the only so-called “Perv”).

Gold, sadly, is one of those human catastrophes that needs a sober and proper repositioning in the hierarchy of things valuable. As we write and read, through these mechanisms that use trace amounts of it, the Amazon Rainforest is being devastated by illegal mining operations that not only ruin massive jungle regions, but also threaten indigenous peoples and supply a chain of criminality that reaches around the world, especially in to the United States with wealthy drug cartels. A great place to start education about this sad reality is with an excellent Netflix docu-series called Dirty Money. The Gold episode is in the second season.

I’m also a bit frustrated that our team of gold thieves were so comfortable hurling cars off the sides of mountains. Not just them either. It’s an ugly reality that the spectacle of an exploding car going down a mountainside, wreaking havoc on the landscape, was just something movie-makers happily included for entertainment value for a great many years. Perhaps the advent of CGI can at least halt that old practice.

In the end, you’ve got another of those sixties style shows that is probably more famous for how Caine looks in the role than for anything really remarkable in film-making or story.

on Prime 3.99, because, you know, ICONIC!

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