The Red Right Hand

The True Story Of A Bank Heist Gone Wrong... In All The Right Ways

Roger Donaldson

Jason Statham
Saffron Burrows
David Suchet

Although I was not alive in 1971, I grew up in London and a lot of stories and urban legends circulate all the time. I vaguely remember my friends' parents talking about the walkie-talkie bank robbers, about how they were never caught and no money was retrieved. The detail that caught my attention was the fact that despite more money and unknown assets were stolen than any other robbery in the UK, a government D-Notice was issued and a complete media blackout ensued. Screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (of notable fame for creating the classic British series, Porridge) claim to have an informant, involved with the whole ordeal, who has shed considerable light on the truth behind the blagging and following cover-up.

The story centres around Michael X [Peter De Jersey], a radical revolutionist and civil rights campaigner; he was also quoted as having stated that any black woman seen with a white man should be shot and was the first black man to be arrested under the Race Relations Act. The plot claims that Michael X photographed a royal princess (presumably Margaret) during an illicit sexual rendezvous. Using these photographs as collateral, he bartered his way out of prison time and returned to his home of Trinidad. To keep the pictures and negatives safe, Michael locked them in a safety deposit box in a bank on Baker Street. MI5, not wanting to directly involve themselves, hire a group of villains to pull of the caper. This is where second-hand car salesman-cum-thieving bastard, Terry [Statham], comes into the picture. Childhood friend of model and drug trafficker, Martine [Burrows], Terry agrees to assist her in this seemingly perfect opportunity. As it turns out, Martine was caught smuggling drugs into the country and MI5 have offered her a sour deal. What's more, opening up the safe deposit boxes has upset a few unpleasant characters (porn baron, Vogel [Suchet], for one) and Terry soon discovers that seemingly everyone is out to get him.

The film itself can be divided into three titled acts (not dissimilar to The Sting); Act I: Breasts, Act II: The Heist, Act III: The Shit and The Fan, An Introduction. The opening is just so painfully slow, even during the robbery very little happens and you start to lose interest very quickly but the film really picks up and vastly improves once everything starts to fall apart. The pace reminded me of Get Carter and other 70's British Bad Boy flicks, so is somewhat forgivable. However, the pace and the story aren't the main points of note, these are reserved for aesthetic style and casting. The cast is largely made up of unknowns and TV bit-parters. It sounds strange but this choice seems to plays out very well and only heightens the events; similar to 28 Days Later - story over star power. The second is the style and look of the film which is absolutely pitch-perfect for 1970's London. While the Americans were gallivanting around in muscle cars and tawdry outfits (Starsky & Hutch is a good reference), the British were bundled up with long wool coats and dodgy shirts - a style that seems to have returned.

The finalised product is one that should be completely dismissive but for some reason lingered with me. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this film was particularly good but it was directed in a way that left a lasting impression - similar to Roger Donaldson's previous work... except The World's Fastest Indian, I still don't care much for that film. It felt like an episode of The Sweeney but as that has been scheduled for a remake in the coming year, I imagine The Bank Job will soon fade from memory. My advice, go watch Get Carter or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Release Date:
UK - 29th February 2008
US - 7th March 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
Just a little thing really, something only a Londoner would probably appreciate. Near the end of the flick, Terry gets involved in a scrap with a bloke armed with a shooter. I'm sure many of you are aware that guns, though attainable, are illegal in the UK. I've always maintained that guns are for show, that anyone who is going to do anything is much more inventive, carrying, knives, bats, knuckle-dusters, piano wire, etc. Naturally, unarmed, Terry scurries behind a car and kicks a brick loose from an old wall. Sneaking around the car he pelts the attacker with the brick and batters the crap out of him. I know it sounds trivial but the American notion of guns is overrated - fights are scrappy and never as cleanly executed as they are on-screen.

Notable Characters:
I know this is a really facetious entry but I actually thought the John Lennon look-a-like was unbelievably good. He never opened his mouth, for obvious reasons, but he looked just like the Beatle. Yep, that's all I have to say about that. Alright, David Suchet was also particularly good as strip club owner and all-round bad bloke, Lew Vogel.

Highlighted Quote:
"Whitehall? You mean fucking MI5? These aren't regular coppers; they're above that"

In A Few Words:
"Slow start but blossomed into an eventually rewarding heist film"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon