Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Art of the Steal Review

The Art of the Steal Review
The caper film has proven tricky over the years. Much like the action film or romance film, it seems trapped within its own cliches. There hasn't been a director clever enough to break the bondage and shed new light on this once promising genre. It seems every year there is a new caper film, the more I fill myself with yawns. Its too bad because the right crew and the right cast could definitely do something special with it. Just when I feel like I have seen everything this sub-genre has to offer, a new breed comes crawling out of the woodwork.

"The Art of the Steal" stars Matt Dillon, Kurt Russell and Jay Baruchel. Kurt Russell plays Crunch Calhoun and Matt Dillon plays Nicky Calhoun. They are half-brothers who have spent their lives stealing art for profit. As the film opens a job goes wry for Crunch, as in his brother betrays him. Crunch spends roughly seven years in a Polish prison (which is apparently the worst prison in the world to go to.) Then spends his seemingly remaining years doing daredevil stunt work for profit, all the while his half-brother still gets rich off of ripping people off. 

A big gig comes up though, so big that it forces Nicky to make amends with Crunch to go after it. No matter how bad he may have ripped his own brother off, he is still family and Crunch is as good as it gets on a motorcycle. So they get the old band back together for one last heist. However, both brothers have secret agendas for themselves that the other brother doesn't know about, so who will come out victorious in then end?

Sadly, "The Art of the Steal" features every caper cliche in the book. There are endless monologues about how the heist team will pull off the heist. There are scenes where a key element left out just so they can explain it later and make it come off as surprising. There are even big speeches about how the team pulled off the heist and how a particular somebody got duped. Unfortunately all of these cliches don't really create anything, nothing fresh or revitalizing comes from any of this. I think the film's ending would have worked better if it didn't borrow so obviously from "The Usual Suspects," instead of getting pulled in from a crescendo of emotion and storytelling, I sat there and wondered why everything looked so familiar. That's the biggest disappointment about "The Art of the Steal," everything just seemed borrowed from other movies, and given the films story, it could have been something onto its own. But the film decided to borrow from every other caper under the sun that it looks like pieces of other movies instead of its own thing.

Despite what I said, "The Art of the Steal" is actually somewhat watchable. If there is one reason to see this movie, see it for Kurt Russell. Russell's charisma is on full-blast in this motion picture, and he allows the audience to buy into all the familiarity. Russell has great chemistry with both Dillon and Baruchel, both of him also do outstanding work. There were several moments throughout the movie where I laughed. If you enjoyed Baruchel's comedic timing in his other film's, you'll love him here too. The cast really saves this movie from being a complete trainwreck. There are plenty of cameos and small parts from a host of recognizable stars and they all put forth good work. It almost seems that like they knew they were in a silly movie, but they took it seriously and made the most of it.

So, the movie itself might not be super-good, but Kurt Russell and the rest of the cast sure is. If you are fans of anybody in this movie, I'd say check it out for them. They give good performances, all fine examples of what great ensemble acting looks like. If you're fine with a harmless caper, you may find some charms in "The Art of the Steal." I am just a little saddened that this could have been something more than a retread.


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