The Italian Job

The Italian Job (2003)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Ed Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

A remake of the 1969 film of the same name, 'The Italian Job' turns out to be much more than a simple reshoot. While using generally the same premise – a gold heist – the film throws in a number of wicked twists and story elements that were not there in the original film. As a result, I daresay, it turns out to be the better of the two versions, actually. Paramount has also released the movie on HD-DVD now, and I was eager to see how it turned out.

Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Ed Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green and others make up the cast of this film and despite my expectation to get another overly hip teenage-catered film, 'The Italian Job' turns out to be a solid caper movie with likeable characters, an engaging premise and a number of cool plot turns you just don't see coming. It is well directed and paced and contains everything a heist movie needs, including furious escapes and last-second rescues, complete with suspenseful set-ups and a good portion of guessing on the viewer's behalf.

Paramount is presenting 'The Italian Job' in its original widescreen version on this HD-DVD, of course, and the transfer is absolutely free of blemishes or defects. Being a fairly recent film it is not surprising that the image detail and definition of the transfer is remarkable. The movie looks solid with deep blacks and high contrasts by design and the high definition transfers reproduces all that very nicely. However, it appears overly sharp at times. Unnaturally so and upon closer examination it appears there ahs been some edge-enhancement applied to the transfer. Since the resolution of a high definition transfer is so much higher than a DVD edge-enhancement is not nearly as striking here but it still gave the film an unnatural, over-sharpened look at times, especially when contrasted against shots that were more mellow and soft.
Color reproduction is very good and the transfer nicely reproduces the subtle hues and tints in the film.

The film features an active sound track throughout that is coming home in the form of a DTS and a Dolby Digital Plus language track. While the sound effects are not as explosive and aggressive as one would sometimes expect from an action-type film like this, the surround channels are engaged virtually constantly. The mix is restrained by design to create more of a natural ambiance – which like – as opposed to an over-the-top bombastic sound experience. It gives the audio track more room to "breathe" as opposed to making it a showpiece in its own right. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, although the music is standing out a bit too much in the mix for my taste.

Paramount Home Entertainment has brought over the extras form the DVD release on this HD-DVD version in their standard 480p format.

A number of featurettes are included, such as 'Pedal To The Metal,' an 18-minute making of segment with cast and crew interviews and an assortment of images and footage form the set. It is interesting featurette that highlights a number of production aspects and also draws comparisons to the original movie.

Another featurette gives the writers the chance to talk about the project and their approach to re-adapt the original film. 'Driving School' shows us how the cast has been trained to drive the minis from the movie and to perform some of the car racing scenes. 'The Mighty Minis' is a featurette about the Mini Cooper cars – or the Bean Mobile as some may call them – from the film, shedding a bit more light on the cars in particular and how they fit into the overall story.

'High Octane' is a featurette about the stunts of the film, discussing how the different location posed their own challenges to realize some of the movie's most thrilling scenes, especially the ones in Venice and in the heart of Hollywood.

Six deleted scenes are also included in the DVD, adding a bit more action to the package, though it is certainly good they have been excised as they would have unnecessarily stretched the film.

Last but not least you will also find a high definition 1080p version of the movie's theatrical trailer on the disc.

'The Italian Job' is a fun-filled high-octane movie that gets everything right and takes you on a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. The HD-DVD offers a decent – though unspectacular and slightly marred – presentation of the movie itself, complete with extras. If you're a lover of clever heist movies that combine suspense with action, here's your number one choice. No one does it like 'The Italian Job.'