The Art of the Steal, one I'm still mulling over.
Working with a small crew that includes his brother, Nicky (Matt Dillon), longtime thief and getaway driver Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell) has pulled off another job at a Polish art museum, getting away with an authentic Gauguin. Well....almost. Nicky gets picked up by the police and facing a stiff sentence if he's found guilty, turns Crunch in. Crunch serves five-plus years in prison, getting out and becoming a stunt motorcycle driver, that is until he's forced to team up with Nicky and the old crew again for one very lucrative job. One of the first books by Johannes Gutenberg has been stolen in Europe and is now just sitting at a border station in Canada, just waiting to be transported into the United States. Can Crunch, Nicky and the crew pull off the job? They've only got a couple days, an art expert coming to verify the book in just a few days. The job is one thing, but can Crunch trust Nicky?
Have you heard of this movie? Yeah, me neither. I don't believe it got any theatrical release in the U.S., but I found it on Netflix and here we sit. I love a good heist movie, and the cast seemed pretty promising for a movie that got little to no release, director Jonathan Sobol also writing the screenplay. It's nothing hugely special or out of this world, but I was entertained throughout. The style borrows here and there from other better, far better known heist flicks, especially the Ocean's movies. We get on-screen graphics telling us where we are -- Quebec City, Detroit (Yeah, not as glamorous) -- and narration laying the groundwork for everything, including giving the crew cute nicknames like the Idea Man, the Forger and others. You get the idea. If you like heist movies, you'll get some enjoyment out of it. How much? That's up to you.
The basic premise is pretty straightforward, playing on the all-too-familiar "one last big job." Russell's Crunch quickly knocks that myth out, stating there's no such thing....well, sorta. Give some background, introduce the personalities and some conflict, lay out the impossible objective to rob and let the hijinks begin. Nothing too crazy there. 'Art' does a good job in that department, following the formula and usually letting the tone stay pretty light. There's some genuinely good laughs sprinkled throughout the fast-moving 90-minute feature. That comes from, not surprisingly, the cast.
You know what? Kurt Russell is really cool. It's one of those things I knew, I was aware of, but it's nice to get a reminder sometimes. His last major studio release was 2007's Death Proof (he's currently filming Fast and Furious 7) so even in a smaller-scale story like this, it's cool to see him do his cool, smooth anti-hero type. Dillon is Dillon, the treacherous me-first brother who just know is up to no good. He pickpockets a young Asian girl for goodness sake!!! As for the rest of the crew, also look for Jay Baruchel as Francie, Crunch's young protege who hasn't been involved in a heist before, Kenneth Welsh as Paddy McCarthy, the smooth Irishman who knows everybody and everything, Chris Diamantopoulos as Guy, the smooth French forger, and Katheryn Winnick as Lola, Crunch's younger girlfriend. Some fun characters, some recognizable names, all of them looking like they're having fun with the stylish caper.
Also worth mentioning is Terence Stamp as Samuel Winter, an infamous thief in his own right, now working with Interpol to earn an early release on his very, very long prison sentence. Stamp shows off his subtle comedic chops as he works with Jason Jones' Interpol Agent Bick. He has little use for the driven Bick, his underplayed digs and insults providing some of the biggest laughs in 'Art' as well as his scene with Russell's Crunch.
And yes, then there's that twist. No, that's not spot-on. TwistSSSSSSSS. Movies aren't content anymore with just one twist or even two. They've got to blow you out of the water with one out of left field twist after another until it becomes indecipherable. Who's that? What's happening? What's going on? It's a heist movie. You know, just know, there is a twist coming, but here the entire last 30 minutes is one new revelation on top of another to the point it just becomes overkill. It doesn't ruin the movie, but the non-stop revelations and twists to get to be a little much. A better movie than I was expecting overall but enough is enough at a certain point. Worth recommending though for sure. A solid, enjoyable heist/caper flick.
The Art of the Steal (2013): ** 1/2 /****