AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Linc Leifeste | October 25, 2013
Director: Jonathan Sobol
Writer: Jonathan Sobol
Starring: Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon, Jay Baruchel, Katheryn Winnick, Terence Stamp, Chris Diamantopoulos, Kenneth Welsh, Jason Jones
The Art of the Steal is a light-hearted, entertaining Canadian heist film centered around Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell), a former thief and master get-away-man turned down-on-his-luck motorcycle daredevil who reluctantly decides to join his old comrades-in-crime in pulling off one more big job. Writer/director Jonathan Sobol has assembled a very slick and modern take on an old-school caper film that more than makes up for what it lacks in originality with it’s abundance of laughs and thrills. And while the case could be made that this is a jejune film, wouldn’t one have to be a bit obstinate to demand more from a new heist film starring Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon?
Calhoun’s prosperous criminal career comes to a painful end when an ambitious art theft in Poland goes awry and his brother and fellow thief Nicky (Matt Dillon) is captured. Unlike the more virtuous Crunch, Nicky is a man of few inhibitions, and doesn’t bat an eye at selling his brother down the river to avoid jail time. The result is Crunch serving five and a half years of hard time in a Polish prison, evidently enough to turn any man from a life of crime to bone-breaking Evel Knievel-style shenanigans. But with Crunch now on the straight and narrow path, with wife Lola (Katheryn Winnick) and young protégé Francie(Jay Baruchel) by his side, Nicky comes calling, looking to pull off one more big heist of a rare Gutenberg volume (the Gutenberg Book of James, anyone?).
Despite the bad blood between the brothers, Crunch ultimately decides to assemble a team including Lola, Francie, master forger Guy (Chris Diamantopoulos) and former gang member Paddy (Kenneth Welsh). But can Nicky be trusted to play it straight with Crunch this time around and share the spoils if they successfully pull off the heist? And will the Interpol agent (played compulsively over the top for cheap laughs by Jason Jones) who’s on to the gang’s activity, figure out their plans in time to stop them?
Kurt Russell gives the appearance of being invested in his performance, exuding a weary boyish charm, perfectly embodying the likeable, aged tough-guy-next-door. Sadly, he doesn’t have much to work with, lacking a compelling second lead off of whom to bounce his charm. Matt Dillon gives the feel of one competently phoning it in and there isn’t much chemistry to be found between the two. And as in many films of this nature, Katheryn Winnick isn’t given the opportunity to play a big part in this boys’ club. As the film reaches it’s climax, there are twists and turns and double and triple crosses, and the film’s success partially depends on whether the viewer sees it all coming ahead of time. I, for one, did not. But by then I wasn’t deeply contemplating what I was watching so much as just enjoying the pleasant enough ride.