The Art of the Steal
Directed by Jonathan Sobol
How can a movie involving the smuggling of biblical art in a large, pink, cubed vagina sculpture be so underwhelming? A stylish heist flick with an affected limp in its strut, Jonathan Sobol's second feature feels like the slacker sibling of try-hard crime caper misfires Seven Psychopaths and Lucky Number Slevin. Like those efforts, the ingredients for a fun, foul-mouthed, irreverent romp are present, but none of the components gel as intended.
Sobol nabs a few typically reliable aging stars with declining price tags to head the ensemble: Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon. The one-time A-listers play brothers with unresolved issues tentatively teaming up to bury the hatchet for the sake of one last job to retire on, because recycling clichés is far easier than coming up with a halfway original idea.
Without anything of significance to say, Sobol simply provides these archetypes of a million stories with flimsy, one-note personalities, puts them in place and sets his elementary Rube Goldberg Machine plotting into motion. Russell takes the lead as Crunch Calhoun, a washed-up motorcycle daredevil forced to botch his landings for paltry payouts after being released from a five-and-a-half-year prison stint.
Nicky Calhoun (Dillon, saving himself some effort by basically doing Pat Healy as an international art thief) is the reason he landed in the slammer. His smarmy, opportunistic prick of a brother is also the reason an Italian thug busts into Crunch's apartment, waving a gun in his face while screaming about pointillism.
While the estranged siblings negotiate the terms of getting the old gang back together (they're all introduced with nicknames and job functions during the intro heist — fitting, since their personalities are about as complex as baseball card stats), a highly strung Interpol agent is teamed up with a former master art thief (Terence Stamp) to track down a famous Seurat piece stolen by Nicky.
The antagonistic relationship between Stamp's unflappable art lover and Jason Jones's tantrum-prone screw-up should be funny, and it certainly aims for crass laughs, but, though professionally delivered, it all feels too forced and familiar to provoke the intended results. Much of the film falls prey to a similar sense of redundancy, with only the odd improvised line by Jay Baruchel, as Crunch's "apprentice," cutting through the tedious mimicry and uninspired "twists" that lead us by the hand to a wholly predictable outcome.
The Art of the Steal is a good example of criminal misdirection though: by the time you realize these slick images are completely empty, your money will already be gone.
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