Starring: Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon, Jay Baruchel
After spending seven years in prison as a result of being double crossed by his brother Nicky Calhoun (Dillon), art thief Crunch Calhoun (Russell) is now a third rate motorcycle daredevil. However, he is persuaded by Nicky to come out of retirement, and reluctantly teaming up with Nicky once again, he assembles his old team back together for one last job, which could be by far their biggest.
It has often been argued there are only several individual stories that exist, and that every story, no matter what form it is presented in, is simply a variation of one of those few stories. Likewise, some films seem more than content to follow a generic template and never even attempt to deviate from it, well The Art of the Steal is a heist film that does exactly that.
However what this film’s narrative may lack in originality and inventiveness, it makes up for in sharp dialogue and an array of genuinely charismatic performances to make for a highly watchable, if totally vacuous, viewing experience. The plot is unashamedly a heist movie-by-numbers and every twist and turn is pretty predictable, even the very final ‘twist’ is pretty obvious, but admittedly well put together.
However, writer/ director Jonathan Sobol has made a film that knows exactly what it is and only embraces that, never taking itself too seriously and always happy to have fun. He does deserve credit for this as the film has a consistent tongue-in-cheek tone, making for a pleasurable viewing experience and that we are always laughing with the film and never at it.
Following the generic narrative structure of the genre allows Sobol to focus on the script, and the dialogue is surprisingly sharp. The wise cracking dialogue exchanges between the characters providing many genuinely funny moments. The cast themselves are predominantly all on top form: Kurt Russell is always a charismatic screen presence when at his best, and though he is of course the wrong side of 60, he proves in The Art of the Steal that he can still be as charismatic as ever. The other standouts are Jason Jones and Terence Stamp as an Interpol agent and art thief turned informant respectively, their bickering is not only superbly written, but delivered with exceptional panache.
At less than 90 minutes The Art of the Steal knows not to outstay its welcome and considering the fact that a good 6 minutes of that is the closing credits (they extend to that length as they include bloopers) suggests that maybe Sobol struggled to fill a 90 minute running time. However, in this day and age where so many films are actually undermined by having an unnecessarily long running time, Sobol should be applauded for appreciating his limits, and the limits of the viewer’s patience.
An incredibly generic genre movie by numbers, but the fact the writer/director is happy to embrace this and provide a sharp script delivered by some very charismatic performances makes The Art of the Steal a very watchable and enjoyable, if highly vacuous film.