Occasionally there is one thing that makes it worth a trip to the movies.
For me “The Art of the Steal” has a few things to recommend it but the thing that would make me reach into my wallet and pay for a second viewing is something that has nothing to do with the twisty-turny plot or the presence of Terence Stamp, one of my favorite actors.
It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, but I’d sprung for a ticket just to see Kurt Russell reprise his impersonation of Elvis Presley. Wearing a Vegas era jumpsuit, he mimics one of the King’s famous dance / karate movies he perfected for the 1979 television movie Elvis. It ups the general cool level of the movie and reaffirms my belief that everything is 10% better with Elvis in it.
In this heist flick Crunch and Nicky Calhoun (Russell and Matt Dillon) are brothers and art thieves, who haven’t worked together since Nicky snitched on Crunch and sent him to prison.
Years later they team up to steal The Gospel According to James, one of the world’s oldest and rarest books, but will the job lead to more double-crossing? Or a taste of revenge?
Along for the ride is Crunch’s apprentice (Jay Baruchel) and a variety of law-and-order types, including a former-art-thief-turned-FBI-informant (Terence Stamp) and an FBI fumbler played by “The Daily Show’s” Jason Jones.
The mechanics of the heist aspect don’t entirely add up—what border crossing storage unit doesn’t have closed circuit cameras?—and the twists threaten to overshadow the whole thing but the chemistry of the cast goes a long way toward smoothing over any plot rough spots.
It simply works better as a comedy than a heist film. Dillon and Stamp are in good form, Russell can cut through this material like a hot knife through butter, but it is Baruchel who shines in a supporting role. He provides the film’s funniest moment although it’s one that may make it harder for him to cross the border in future.
“The Art of the Steal” is an entertaining movie that mixes laughs with intrigue, crime with revenge in an offbeat heist flick.
“You show up on set and you look over here and there’s Kurt Russell and there’s Terence Stamp,” says Jay Baruchel of shooting his new film the Art of the Steal, “and you think, ‘I have a pretty cool gig.’”
The heist film sees Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon as Crunch and Nicky Calhoun, brothers and art thieves who haven’t worked together since Nicky snitched on Crunch and sent him to prison. Years later they team up to steal one of the world’s rarest books, but will the job lead to more double-crossing?
Baruchel co-stars in this twisty-turny movie as Crunch’s sidekick and protégé, which meant he got to spend a great deal of time with Russell.
“It’s one of these things where if we didn’t get along at all we would find a way to fake it but what really helped is that we were two Chatty Cathys. I would ask him every conceivable thing. Every John Carpenter story. Stuff about Tango and Cash. Stuff about Tombstone, one of my very favorite movies of all time.
“He was cool to talk about all of it so whenever cut was called Kurt and I would go outside and have a cigarette and talk. We talked about everything. We talked about politics. We talked movies, sports. He’s a Canadian-O-Phile as well, so the man has some real Canadian bone fides. So when it comes time to say action, there’s an energy, a connection, a shorthand because we enjoy one another’s company.
“It can be faked, but it’s way less fun and way more work.”
Working with one of his heroes wasn’t the only reason Baruchel signed on.
“Like any job I take, I look at the opportunity,” he says. “I look at who I’m going to work with, what it’s about and where it’s going to be and would I pay money to see it. This checked every box on my criteria.”
Chief among those yardsticks is a strong Canadian element. The actor is a vocal supporter of the homegrown industry who says, “We need to make more movies here that take place here and we not hide our Canadian-ness.”
The Art of the Steal fits the bill. It was shot in Niagara Falls, a place he calls “a very specific part of the world, equal parts gorgeous and seedy and strange and disarming. The whole thing is a back lot. You put a camera there anywhere and you have production value up your ass.”