A gang of cockney villains, led by small-time thief Charlie Croker (Caine), undertake a daring gold bullion robbery in the heart of Turin dressed as England footie supporters and driving a trio of Union Jack colour-coded Minis.
With a reputation forged on the back of multiple Bank Holiday afternoon TV screenings, The Italian Job is a "classic" owned by the people rather than the stuffy critical academia. Receiving lukewarm reviews on its 1969 release, Peter Collinson's sensational crime caper has worn well, blessed with enough 60s swagger, swinging music and quotable lines to make it quaint while equal amounts of laughs, story spinning brio and cunning stuntwork keep it fresh.
Add stunning Continental vistas and the kind of crowdpleasing antics that only really take flight in the cinema, this opportunity to catch it on a big screen is not to be missed.
Penned by Z Cars writer Kennedy Martin, The Italian Job is a story of charmingly absurdist conceits; a gang of cockney villains, led by small-time thief Charlie Croker (Caine), undertake a daring gold bullion robbery in the heart of Turin dressed as England footie supporters and driving a trio of Union Jack colour-coded Minis (surely the most identifiable getaway cars in the history of crime). Yet this hokey idea is embraced and played up to the hilt - witness Croker's run-ins with the comedy mafiosi - embellished by a clutch of original characterisations: chiefly Benny Hill's potty Professor Peach, with a roving eye for XL ladies, Noel Coward's hilarious imprisoned, criminal mastermind, the regal Mr. Bridger - watch him take applause as news of the gang's "success" breaks through - and Croker's gang of campish crims, eons away from stock in trade hardmen.
Yet above all these are The Italian Job's two dazzling trump cards: Michael Caine's cocksure embodiment of cool Britannia and the truly breathtaking getaway sequence. Here is a rare heist flick that concentrates on the escape above the crime itself - in which the smallest output of the British motor industry slaughters the fuzz through streets, subways and sewers before meeting a tantalising fate on the edge of that cliff.
Indeed, after all the Yank flagwaving of Armageddon and within a homegrown cinema dogged by reserved worthiness and humdrum mundanity, revel in a film that exuberantly celebrates the fact that it's ace being British.
As a film, The Italian Job is hardly a work of unalloyed genius; but as a reminder of the time when Britannia really was cool, it's peerless.