Film Review: ‘The Art of the Steal’

The Art of the Steal Review

This lightly amusing heist-movie riff feels as disposable as the numerous counterfeit paintings that exchange hands throughout.

“Real currency in the world ain’t money; it’s trust.” “There’s no such thing as one last job.” These and other canned bits of honor-among-thieves wisdom can be found in “The Art of the Steal,” a derivative heist thriller-comedy that passes painlessly enough at a brisk 90 minutes, but ultimately feels as disposable as the numerous counterfeit paintings that exchange hands throughout. Cast as estranged brothers trying to settle an old score by stealing (and forging copies of) priceless museum-based treasures, Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon collect their paychecks without breaking a sweat in this low-rent diversion, a lightly amusing riff on the many superior films of its type, including but not limited to the various iterations of “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Italian Job.” The Canadian production is now in theatrical and VOD release through Radius-TWC.

“The Art of the Steal” feels wheezy from the outset, inundating the viewer with Guy Ritchie-style freeze-frame effects identifying the characters not only by their names, but by the roles they play (“the Scratcher,” “the Wheelman”) in the various heists that are planned and (for the most part) pulled off in the course of the script by writer-director Jonathan Sobol (“A Beginner’s Guide to Endings”). The first of these involves the theft of a Gauguin from a Polish museum by shrewd, principled gang leader Crunch Calhoun (Russell), working with his much slimier brother, Nicky (Dillon); Guy (Chris Diamantopoulos), a French art forger par excellence; and Uncle Paddy (Kenneth Welsh), a randy old sod with a deep network of contacts. But when Nicky makes a typically idiotic blunder, the police are tipped off, and Crunch winds up taking the rap for his ne’er-do-well brother.

Seven years later, Crunch is out of the clink and barely eking out a living performing sub-Evel Knievel motorcycle stunts. He’s also got a loyal girlfriend, Lola (Katheryn Winnick), and a smart-talking apprentice, Francie (Jay Baruchel, ever ready with a wisecrack), both of whom wind up getting sucked into the action when Crunch reluctantly agrees to go back into business with Nicky, although not before a few score-settling physical blows are exchanged. With Guy and Paddy eventually persuaded to rejoin their ranks, the team sets its sights on not only Seurat’s pointillist masterwork “Model, Rear View 1887,” but also a Gutenberg-printed copy of the apocryphal Gospel of James.

Ensnaring these treasures will naturally prove a complicated affair, involving tricky border crossings, dangerous liaisons and, most oddly, a giant pink sculpture of a woman’s genitalia that proves anatomically detailed enough to serve as a natural hiding place for some ill-gotten loot; Winnick’s perfunctory role aside, it’s the closest thing the film has to what you’d call a female presence. Also along for the ride are a bumbling idiot of an Interpol agent (Jason Jones) and a sophisticated former art thief (a fine Terence Stamp) who has since become a reluctant agency informant.

Once the script is done playing its belabored game of who’s who, it becomes a sleek and moderately clever exercise in narrative misdirection, with at least one or two twists sly enough to pull the wool over even an attentive viewer’s eyes, as the climactic rush of “gotcha!” flashbacks makes duly apparent. The revelations, when they come, are meant to dovetail with those shopworn sentiments about thievery laid out at the beginning of the film, from the importance of trust to the inevitability of payback; it’s a neat reversal that makes up for in playfulness what it lacks in emotional heft or dramatic stakes.

Russell and Dillon aren’t particularly persuasive as siblings but sock over their good-brother/bad-brother roles effectively enough, anchoring an ensemble of actors who remain pleasant company even when they’re simply going through the motions. Tech package is fine, although the bigscreen doesn’t exactly flatter d.p. Adam Swica’s muted, sometimes murky cinematography (of which gray seems to be the dominant color), and indeed, “The Art of the Steal” will make perfectly acceptable home (or in-flight) viewing. The closing credits include a series of legitimately funny outtakes, many of them more amusing than the film that precedes them.

Film Review: 'The Art of the Steal'

Reviewed online, Pasadena, Calif., March 18, 2014. (In 2013 Toronto Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 90 MIN.

Production

(Canada) A Radius-TWC (in U.S.) release of a Dimension Films and Alliance Films presentation of a Darius Films production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund, Ontario Media Development Corp., in association with the Movie Network, Movie Central. Produced by Nicholas D. Tabarrok. Executive producers, Jeff Sackman, Bob Weinstein, Mark Slone, Noah Segal.

Crew

Directed, written by Jonathan Sobol. Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen), Adam Swica; editor, Geoff Ashenhurst; music, Grayson Matthews; music supervisor, John Rowley; production designer, Matthew Davies; art director, Peter Emmink; set decorator, Brendan Smith; costume designer, Brenda Broer; sound (Dolby Digital), Rob Turi; supervising sound editors, Mark Gingras, John Laing; re-recording mixers, Orest Sushko, Colin McLellan; special effects supervisor, Derek Liscoumb; visual effects executive producer, Anna Junger; visual effects, Reactiv Post, Michael Morey/Fuller Prods.; stunt coordinators, Alison Reid, Chris McGuire; line producer, Marek Posival; associate producer, Leah Jaunzems; assistant directors, Alan Goluboff, Pazz Neglia; casting, Nancy Klopper (U.S.), Stephanie Gorin (Canada).

With

Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Katheryn Winnick, Chris Diamantopoulos, Kenneth Welsh, Jason Jones, Terence Stamp, Matt Dillon, Devon Bostick, Stephen McHattie, Joe Pingue, Alan C. Peterson, Dax Ravina. (English, French dialogue)

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  2. David Redford says:

    When I saw the film at the Film Fest, I was very disappointed with the weak story plot. I had the pleasure of viewing the movie with a well known hollywood A-listed producer, he actually told me about a movie script making the rounds regarding a very talented art forger named Marty who had ripped of Pablo Escobar for a huge amount of money and the true story was being made into a film. Looks like Oliver Stone could be producing new film. The kid had a lot of moxy apparently. Hopefully they do a better job then ‘Art Of The Steal’

  3. bobby nokes says:

    Art heist film’s and true crime seem to be a hot commodity right now in the film world. ‘The Art Of The Steal’ is a very poor made film with lack of true story line due to the fact they should have done more research on the the characters involved. I remember seeing a piece on 60 minutes regarding Martin Kantelberg and his art genius. I always wondered when a movie would come out regarding his story. Hopefully Brush With The Law will get it.

  4. Kosbergg says:

    Very good comments posted! BRUSH WITH THE LAW…..is a great story!
    The art of the Steal and The forger can’t touch BRUSH WITH THE LAW.
    They are very weak in story line and loosely based on Martin Kantelberg’s life as a Robin Hood slash gangster career. I remember his story back in the early 90’s he was a celebreaty amongst art collectors and dealers.

  5. H. Weinsteinn says:

    What a movie….don’t waste your money! There has been a lot of interest as of late in famed Art Forger ‘Martin Kantelberg’. He was a genius of talent when it came to creating masterpieces of the old-masters especially Picasso’s and Rembrandts. He disappeared walking away from the art world and fame and fortune as wealthy art dealers chased him seeking his own artwork. After out-witting the FBI, Billionaire Investment Dealer Arthur Altshul, and the late social-lite Billy Mccartney Cooper for close to $22 million dollars he vanished after a short stint in Federal Prison. Rumours have swirled that due to his many talents and worldwide connections that he in fact became a CIA operative but those are the rumours that circulated around Hollywood’s inner circle as of late John Travolta has just completed the film ‘The Forger’ and it has a lot of similarity’s to Martin Kantelberg’s life story. But the real script that is making the rounds with much anticapation is ‘Brush With The Law’ which was written by James Kellys and is a very hot script circulating hollywood circles right now. It focuses on Martin ripping off famed Drug Lord Pablo Escobar. This will be a great true crime thriller movie goers will enjoy! These other two imposters ‘The Art Of The Steal’ and ‘The Forger’ just dont cut it! Same old actors embarrasing themselves trying to make something from nothing. Can’t wait too see who star’s in ‘Brush With The Law’…..rumour has it that Hemsworth are Walhberg are in the lead to play ‘Martin Kantelberg’ can’t wait to hear more.

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