The Art of the Steal, 2014
Directed by Jonathan Sobol.
Starring Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon, Jay Baruchel, Kenneth Welsh and Chris Diamantopoulos.
Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist.
Honour amongst thieves? Trust within a family? Not bloody likely. At least not if your name is Calhoun. Jonathan Sobol’s heist caper has lofty aspirations indeed, but ultimately this falls short of its peers. Big white typeface, natty nicknames and an upbeat jazzy score can work well, but we’ve seen the likes of Clooney, Pitt and Soderbergh do this better already. Confidence tricks only work for an audience when they can understand and appreciate the reveal. Here, it is not so obvious and woe betide the viewer that doesn’t give this effort their full attention. If you’re guilty of this, then you may not gain as much pleasure from it as you might expect to.
Upon being released from a Polish prison after five and a half years of a seven-year stretch, Crunch (Russell) is once again free to return to the US. He had been found guilty of an art theft based on the evidence provided by his own brother, Nicky (Dillon) who turned him in. Both men were guilty, but Nicky did the math and decided on his own that a seven year sentence for his brother was more acceptable than a twenty year stint for himself. Very noble, eh?
Anyway, Crunch gets drawn back into the business that got him into so much trouble in the first place, for ‘one last job’. Isn’t it always the way that the one last job never goes quite as smoothly as you might hope? If you live in Hollywood, it might be a better idea to never make any job your last one, because it invariably will go terribly badly for you and everyone involved. Never say never again. If it’s good enough for Sean Connery, it’s good enough for anyone.
What follows is an increasingly convoluted story that wraps the audience up in a conundrum that they’re not really sure they are even a party to and unless you’re in the habit of spinning more than half a dozen plates on the end of long sticks at once, you’re likely to be just hoping like the rest of us that this will makes sense by the end. The performances are suitable enough for the demands of the story but nobody really shines. The relationship of Crunch and Nicky as brothers is unconvincing and Sobol doubtlessly wants you to like Nicky less and Crunch more, espousing at length about the importance of trust. Something Nicky simply doesn’t or chooses not to understand.
Unarguably stylish in design, The Art of the Steal really, really wants to be another Ocean’s Eleven but lacks the charisma even if it does admittedly have a very impressive level of invention. The characters are not as engaging as Soderbergh’s effort and the script is not as articulate or as punchy here, but there is plenty for heist fans to enjoy nonetheless.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★