You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.


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.

Popular on Variety

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.


(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.


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).


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

  • Tracy Letts Ford V Ferrari

    Tracy Letts on His Writing Routine and His Roles in 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Little Women'

    Tracy Letts says he’s driven by the need to tell stories that showcase humanity. It’s a need that earned him a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for “August: Osage County” and led to his current Broadway play, “Linda Vista,” about a 50-year-old divorcé (played by Ian Barford) in the midst of a midlife crisis. Letts also brings the [...]

  • In “Frozen 2,” Elsa is grateful

    Box Office: 'Frozen 2' Nabs $18.6 Million in Early International Launches

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” is starting to generate heat internationally with $18.6 million in 26 markets. The sequel launched in first place in all overseas territories on Wednesday and posted the highest opening day of all time for an animated movie in South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Philippines, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and UAE. The debut day in [...]

  • Apollo 11

    'Apollo 11' Returning to Imax Theaters (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Apollo 11” will return to Imax theaters for a one-week engagement, Variety has learned. The move comes as the documentary about the 1969 NASA mission to put the first men on the moon is gearing up for a heated awards season. “Apollo 11” is seen as one of the major contenders for the best documentary [...]

  • Marriage Story

    Randy Newman on Hitting the Romantic Notes of 'Marriage Story' (Exclusive Featurette)

    Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” opens with a seven-minute montage. “I wanted a big, warm romantic score for the movie,” Baumbach says, of the music for his film about a couple whose marriage starts to unravel and their struggle through divorce. “The picture begins with a seven-minute montage. It introduces themes that are such used throughout [...]

  • Frozen 2

    Box Office: 'Frozen 2' Earns $8.5 Million on Thursday Night

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” opened with an impressive $8.5 million at North American locations on Thursday night. It’s the biggest preview number since “Joker” took in $13.3 million on Oct. 3. Sony’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” earned $900,000 from Thursday shows starting at 4:30 p.m., in 2,865 locations, while STX’s thriller “21 Bridges” scored [...]

  • Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt in

    Joanne Froggatt Treads Singapore Red Carpet, Revisits ‘Downton Abbey’ Memories

    “Downton Abbey,” the feature adaptation of the hit British television series of the same name, had its local premiere at the 30th Singapore International Film Festival on Friday night. Representing the film on the red carpet was Golden Globe best supporting actress-prizewinner Joanne Froggatt, who played lady’s maid Anna Bates in all six seasons of [...]

  • THE IRISHMAN (2019)Ray Ramano (Bill Bufalino

    Despite Controversy, 'The Irishman' Is Netflix's Biggest Theatrical Release at Home and Abroad

    Despite friction in the U.S. over its release in select cinemas, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is enjoying the biggest theatrical rollout of any Netflix film to date, with key international markets screening the movie and bolstering its profile as awards season gets underway. The nearly three-and-a-half-hour mob epic has secured relatively large releases in major [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content