Judge Clark Douglas and a five-man team once stole a medium-sized tray of paper clips from an office building.
Our review of The Art of the Steal (2009), published July 22nd, 2010, is also available.
It takes a great artist to pull off the perfect con.
"I'm gonna have to use the f-word here to make this easier."
Facts of the Case
Years ago, Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell, Escape From New York) and his brother Nicky (Matt Dillon, Crash) were inseparable partners in crime. Together with the members of their crew, they engaged in a series of high-profile art heists and made a fortune. Alas, things turned south when Nicky got caught and betrayed Crunch in order to avoid jail time. Crunch went to prison for five years, and now attempts to scrape together a living doing motorcycle tricks at monster truck rallies.
One day, Nicky shows up and offers to make amends. He's got his sights set on one last heist, but they're going to need to get the whole crew back together if they want to pull it off. Crunch is certainly eager to make a bit of money, but he's hesitant to work with his brother again. Can these two ever restore their broken trust?
It pains me to think about how many great Kurt Russell roles we've been missing out on in recent years. Quentin Tarantino made spectacular use of the actor in Death Proof (say what you will about that movie, there's no denying that Stuntman Mike is terrific), but the film flopped in theatres and Russell dropped off the radar for a few years. He re-emerged in 2011 with the formulaic sports drama Touchback, then disappeared again before returning in 2014 with the formulaic heist movie The Art of the Steal. While the film at least appreciates the virtues of its lead actor and attempts to give him a meaty character, the flimsy derivative nature of the plot leads to a fairly dull viewing experience.
The Art of the Steal is essentially Ocean's Eleven-lite; tossing every heist movie convention you've ever seen into a pseudo-hip cinematic stew. During an opening sequence designed to introduce the assorted members of Crunch's crew, you get freeze-frame shots of each individual and a piece of identifying text slapped up on the screen: "Lola—The Charm." The music coolly prances in the background, a perpetually irritated government agent (Jason Jones, The Daily Show) fumbles every attempt to catch the band of thieves red-handed, the final act loads up a stack of double-crosses and triple-crosses and borrows liberally from The Usual Suspects, etc. If you've seen your share of movies, you've certainly seen this movie.
The only real pleasure The Art of the Steal offers is the colorful cast, which is full of decent character actors doing their thing. Russell makes a fine lead, and his weary, sarcastic narration which dominates the first act almost convinced me that I was watching a smart, funny movie. Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon) is likably scrappy as Russell's sidekick, and Terence Stamp (Superman II) is reliably terrific as the old ex-con who has been reduced to serving as an informant for Interpol. Alas, Dillon is a bit dull as Russell's slippery brother, and Katheryn Winnick (Love and Other Drugs) is mostly reduced to playing the thankless role of "the girl" in this male-dominated flick.
The Art of the Steal (Blu-ray) has received a satisfactory 1080p/2.40:1 transfer. The film's cinematography isn't quite as snazzy as it wants you to think it is, but the images look good, sporting strong detail and depth throughout. There's just a hint of black crush occasionally and a small amount of digital noise, but otherwise I have no complaints. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is perfectly effective, too, blending the snappy music and dialogue together nicely and proving rather immersive on a couple of occasions (the mall sequence midway through comes to mind). Supplements include a commentary with director Jonathan Sobol and producer Nicholas Tabarrok and two standard featurettes: "Doing the Crime: Making The Art of the Steal" (a typical making-of piece) and "The Making of The Theft of Mona Lisa" (which highlights a fun little black-and-white sequence which appears in the film).
The Art of the Steal isn't exactly a terrible film, but it doesn't have an original bone in its body. There's no reason for it to exist when so many similar and superior options are available. If you're a diehard Russell fan, look for it in the bargain bin sometime soon.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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