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The Art of the Steal Blu-ray Review

The Art of the Steal (2014) movie poster The Art of the Steal

US Theatrical Release: March 14, 2014 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Jonathan Sobol

Cast: Kurt Russell (Dennis "Crunch" Calhoun), Jay Baruchel (Francie Tobin), Katheryn Winnick (Lola Calhoun), Chris Diamantopoulos (Guy De Cornet), Kenneth Welsh (Uncle Paddy McCarthy), Jason Jones (Agent Bick), Terence Stamp (Samuel Winter), Matt Dillon (Dominick "Nicky" Calhoun), Devon Bostick (Ponch), Stephen McHattie (Dirty Ernie), Alan C. Peterson (Reverend Herman Headly), Dax Ravina (Sunny), Joe Pingue (Carmen), Camilla Scott (Olga "Something-Long" Panofsky-Cienfuegos), Mike Wilmot (Detroit Border Guard), Eugene Lipinski (Stash Bartkowiak)

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Thirteen years after its release,
Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven remains the film by which all modern action comedies are measured. The best of the genre evokes but never exceeds that sequel-spawning 2001 caper. The similarities are so obvious and numerous that you're unlikely to find a single review of The Art of the Steal that doesn't mention Soderbergh's remake. That's not a comparison that does this movie any favors.

Whereas Ocean's boasted the star power of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts all at peak levels of fame, this Canadian film assembles actors on the wane, led by Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon. That's still more talent than would seem warranted for the third feature screenplay from second-time director Jonathan Sobol.

Francie (Jay Baruchel), Crunch (Kurt Russell), Nicky (Matt Dillon), and Uncle Paddy (Kenneth Welsh) meet with a contact about a potential job in "The Art of the Steal."

The movie opens in a Polish prison where Dennis "Crunch" Calhoun (Russell) has completed a 7-year sentence in 5 years. He quickly details the circumstances of that conviction. During a routine deal of forged artwork, a member of his skilled team of art thieves, his half-brother Nicky (Dillon) makes Crunch the fall guy, figuring a shorter sentence for a first-time offender is preferable to the 20 years Nicky would have to do.

Out now, wheelman Crunch returns to the world of stunt driving. He is so strapped for cash that he is willing to stage a dangerous injury for $800. Suddenly, though, an opportunity arises for a much bigger payday. It involves reuniting the old gang, including master French forger Guy (Chris Diamantopoulos) and "Rolodex" Uncle Paddy (Kenneth Welsh). Also joining the operation is Crunch's new apprentice Francie (Jay Baruchel) and barely-defined young wife Lola (Katheryn Winnick). Crunch is reluctant to work with Nicky again, but this $1.5 million job is too good to pass up, even with an eager INTERPOL agent ("The Daily Show"'s Jason Jones) and his convict informant (Terence Stamp) hot on the gang's trail and desperate to locate a missing original Seurat pointillist painting believed to be in their possession.

The heist involves retrieving the second book Gutenberg published on his printing press, the apocryphal Gospel of James. It's currently stuck in a high-security international border station. Getting their hands on it to resell demands specialized expertise and involves a large pink sculpture resembling a vagina.

A clean record makes Francie (Jay Baruchel) the one to drive across the border in a fake beard. INTERPOL agent Bick (Jason Jones) and convicted thief Samuel Winter (Terence Stamp) collaborate with what is intended to be a comically adversarial relationship.

Art aims to be stylish with a narrative that jumps around from Warsaw to Quebec City to Detroit. The plot isn't bad. The characters are passable, more as a group than a series of individuals. The whole thing is just remarkably unfunny, however. The cast's inherent appeal is trumped by the film's overconfidence in its comedy and presentation.
The absolute worst element is the banter between Jones and Stamp's characters, belabored back and forth that falls flat every time. You can perhaps overlook that as secondary material, but the more focal stuff isn't much better. Diamantopoulos does a surprisingly exceptional French accent. Baruchel is his usual likable self. But where the members Danny Ocean's gang all have purposes and their share of the laughs, these personalities make minimal impression and have little to show for their prolonged screentime.

The film is salvaged some by a decent twist ending that at least elevates the proceedings above generic direct-to-video caliber storytelling. But it even overplays that, like it's performing some kind of brilliant sucker punch the likes of which you could never, ever foresee, despite it devoting several minutes to a black and white detour that otherwise has no reason of existing. While Sobol clearly possesses some flair and talent, he's in over his head here, his obscure previous body of work not preparing him for what feels like the poor Canadian's version of Now You See Me.

Art's public reception in limited theatrical release in March, following a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and a limited Canadian release last September, couldn't be much more different from Now's success a year ago. Opening in just 60 theaters (on the same day it became available for download and on demand) and then closing in 15 just thirteen days later, Art grossed a pitiful $64 thousand, which actually only places it in the middle of the pack for The Weinstein Company's niche Radius-TWC label.

Also bearing the Dimension Films brand once reserved for sci-fi and horror, Art hit Blu-ray and DVD this week from Weinstein partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

The Art of the Steal Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $12.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.98 $8.16 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

No need to stop the presses; a brand new film, even one as presumably modestly budgeted as this, looking great on Blu-ray is nothing unexpected in 2014. This vibrant, immaculate 2.40:1 transfer boasts great detail and sharpness. Doing a solid job of distributing dialogue, score, and effects, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is also without complaint.

Wondering where "The Limey" ranks on the all-time best movie list of writer/director Jonathan Sobol? He'll let you know in "Doing the Crime: Making 'The Art of the Steal.'" Technology, huh? A mustachioed Matt Dillon sat in front of green screen, with a room of sculptures and other fine period decor were added in post-production.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Art of the Steal is joined by three bonus features. First up is an audio commentary by writer-director Jonathan Sobol and producer Nicholas Tabarrok. They speak consistently over the film, with reference to what's onscreen,

although none of their observations and revelations regarding locations, production design, Kurt Russell's ability to wear sunglasses, Terence Stamp's anecdotes, and such is terribly interesting, even if they bring the enthusiasm of inexperience.

On the video side, we get a pair of standard definition featurettes.

"Doing the Crime: Making The Art of the Steal" (29:36) is as general as its title suggests. Sobol tries to show off his knowledge of writing and cinema (even the French New Wave) and the subjects of his education, while everyone else speaks highly of his script. Tabarrok speaks to the project's evolution from the more offbeat The Gospel According to Roscoe as it was envisioned. Then Sobol discusses each bit of casting, as the cast moves to talking about one another, as behind-the-scenes footage show their different creative processes, from Baruchel's improvisation to Dillon's fixed perspective coming together.

Presented like an old short, "The Making of 'The Theft of the Mona Lisa'" (5:03) details that flashy black and white sequence's use of green screen and computer-generated period backdrops. Deconstructing the elements doesn't render the visual effects any more than ordinary.

The disc opens with trailers for Blue Ruin and Man of Tai Chi. Neither is accessible by menu and Art of the Steal's own trailer is nowhere to be found here.

The routine menu sets a montage of clips to score. This disc extends the unfortunate tradition of Weinstein Blu-rays neither resuming playback nor letting you set bookmarks.

No inserts or slipcovers jazz up the plain blue keepcase, which at least treats the disc to a full-color label.

On a Niagara Falls, Ontario street, half-brothers Crunch (Kurt Russell) and Nicky (Matt Dillon) argue over whether to get Wendy's before or after a visit to Movieland Wax Museum of the Stars. (Not really.)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Art of the Steal is easy to watch and occasionally entertaining, but it never shakes the feeling that you're watching a third-rate Ocean's Eleven knock-off. While the Blu-ray offers great picture and sound plus a decent handful of extras, this is only worth renting if you're a big fan of the cast.

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Reviewed May 7, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Radius-TWC, Darius Films, Dimension Films, Alliance Films,
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.