Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell), a third rate motorcycle daredevil and semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get back into the con game and pull off one final lucrative art theft with his untrustworthy brother, Nicky (Matt Dillon). Reassembling the old team, Crunch comes up with a plan to steal a priceless historical book, but the successful heist leads to another far riskier plan devised by Nicky. They fail to realize each other's separate agendas when their plan goes awry in this con movie about honor, revenge and the bonds of brotherhood. Written by
The Art of the Steal doesn't have the class of Ocean's Eleven, Guy Ritchie's eccentric bad boys, nor does it have the wry wit of In Bruges, but it does have enough enthusiasm, convoluted plot, split- screen framing, and seasoned cast anchored by Kurt Russell and Terence Stamp to make this dead-zone time of movie year bearable until May.
This religious texts heist, however, does have some classart to be specificand the Seurat original, along with some Mona Lisa recollections, is the main object of the crime. Russell's Crunch Calhoun and Matt Dillon's half-brother Nicky do one last heist, a thriller mainstay that promises much will go wrong before the denouement. Writer- director Jonathan Sobol's double-crosses and cocky hooligans last to the twisted end for a real "last" one.
With Jay Baruchel playing the greenhorn, and therefore the vulnerable part of the plan, fun ensues as he questions the sanity of the plan's convoluted steps. Even more fun is watching a deadpan Terence Stamp play a federal informer whose British accent and considerable knowledge of art inform every suspenseful moment with the exotic, the cultural, and the dangerous.
Part of the joy is trying to figure out where his character fits in with the lawful and the unlawful. Not happy, however, is the over-the-top reactions of Jason Jones' Interpol agent, Bick. Blame director Jonathan Sobol for not seeing the chasm between this sophomoric performance and Stamp's nuanced turn.
Kurt Russell has been in showbiz for at least a half century, and while his face shows some wear, his actorly sensibilities are sharply delivered in a film whose comic moments and frequent plot twists offer a brief respite in a waning but still ornery winter.
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