×

Film Review: ‘The Art of the Steal’

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

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)

“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.

Popular on Variety

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)

More Film

  • Bruce Springsteen arrives for the New

    Bruce Springsteen Returns to NJ Hometown for Surprise 'Western Stars' Introduction

    Bruce Springsteen returned to his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey to offer a surprise introduction to the first public multiplex viewing of his concert/documentary film, “Western Stars.” Dressed simply in a brown jacket, Springsteen took a moment to say a few words at the AMC Freehold 14 movie theater on Saturday night. “We knew we [...]

  • Backstage in Puglia del film SPACCAPIETRE:

    'Gomorrah' Star Salvatore Esposito Set For De Serio Twins' 'The Stonebreaker'

    Salvatore Esposito, the Italian star who plays young mob boss Genny Savastano in Italy’s hit TV series “Gomorrah,” will soon be hitting the big screen toplining upcoming drama “The Stonebreaker” by twin directorial duo Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio, who are known internationally for “Seven Acts of Mercy.” The De Serio twins are now in post on “Stonebreaker” [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Tops 'Joker,' 'Zombieland'

    “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is on track to give Disney another first place finish after scoring $12.5 million in Friday’s domestic ticket sales. If estimates hold, the Angelina Jolie-led film should finish the weekend with about $38 million — well below earlier forecasts but enough to top holdover “Joker” and fellow newcomer “Zombieland: Double Tap.” [...]

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON, France   — As the Lumière Institute’s head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launched the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over the decade that followed. This year, the festival ran 190 films across 424 screenings in theaters all over town. The festival will come to a [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content