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.