One genre that we are seeing less and less of these days is the heist genre. Some of the greatest films of all time like Dog Day Afternoon, Reservoir Dogs, and The Killing are films in the heist genre. To me what is most interesting about the genre is how a heist film can be done in so many different tones. A heist movie like The Killing can be very serious and focused on the heist itself, while others like Ocean’s Eleven are more comedic and have more of a focus on the characters.
While it sounds like it would be easier to make, the heist comedy is a tough balancing act. Unlike a regular heist movie, the team behind the film has to give an equal focus to the characters, the heist itself, and also to giving the audience some big laughs. Trying to make this balance is what ultimately prevented heist films like Ocean’s 12, The Perfect Score, and Tower Heist from ever coming together. Luckily enough, Art of the Steal is able to make that balance, and be an enjoyable caper.
Art of the Steal follows Crunch Calhoun, a former thief and motorcyclist who is returning from jail. Trying to make his mark on history, Calhoun along with his old team try to pull of their biggest heist yet.
Usually when a big cast like this is assembled together, most of the actors are just there for a paycheck. Even the greats like George Clooney and Brad Pitt made their attempts at a cash grab with Ocean’s 12. In Art of the Steal, the cast actually gives it their all, and does a fine job.
To be honest, I was beginning to miss seeing Kurt Russell in movies. He has always been a great talent, and played a huge role in classics like The Thing. Here, Russell is not stretching himself very much out of his comfort zone, but brings his natural charisma to his role as the leader of this group of thieves. The other standout in the cast has to be Jay Baruchel. Like Russell, Baruchel is not asked to stretch himself very much as an actor, but he is one of the great funnymen in the industry. Both Russell and Baruchel share the screen for a significant portion of the film, and have great comedic timing together.
Other ensemble members like the leads are not stretching themselves, but do a good job with their respective roles. From character actors like Jason Jones and Kenneth Welsh, to well-known talents like Matt Dillon and Terence Stamp, everyone is bringing their best effort to the film. Most importantly, it seems like all of the actors here are having fun with their roles, which translates well to the audience.
Everyone in the cast also has a great deal of chemistry together. All of these actors play really well off each other, even with most of these actors possessing very different skill sets. It’s easy to spot the camaraderie this group has from their first frame together, as they just bounce dialogue off each other with great ease and fluidity.
Managing this giant cast is director Jonathan Sobol. For Sobol, Art of the Steal is his directorial feature film, and he does a rather impressive job with it. Sobol does a great job of the balancing act between making a comedy, while still keeping focus on the heist itself. He also does a fantastic job of adding some nice stylistic touches, with each most of these touches being unique for a film of this nature.
Sobol also had the task of writing the film, and gave a solid effort. Fueling this great connection between the cast is a really sharply written script. Throughout the film, there were a surprising amount of laughs that really caught me off guard, with a few of them even being really hardy laughs. There are not so many laughs to where it takes away from the heist element itself and makes the film a straight comedy, but enough spread through the film to entice the audience.
While the screenplay excels when it comes to the dialogue, it’s not nearly as strong as when it comes to the story. The heist itself is rather interesting, but the details about the heist do get a bit convoluted. There are several changes about what the final end goal is for the heist itself, and it just makes the story itself seem really unfocused. This all leads to an ending which is satisfying, but a bit predictable.
Predictability is another issue that plagues the film. Present here in the film are a lot of cliches that have been seen and done before in a heist film. It just feels like after awhile, the film was borrowing a bit too heavily from other heist films, and could have been a bit more original with its script and even its character arcs.
Another minor issue: Art of the Steal runs on a bit too long. After the heist ends, there is still a good thirty minutes left of aftermath, and that in general felt a bit too long. Maybe adding more details to the heist or just cutting down the third act in general really could have helped in balancing the pacing.
Even with the film ultimately stealing a bit too much from other heist films, Art of the Steal is a consistently fun watch thanks in larger part to its great cast, snappy dialogue, and stylish direction.
Take a Drink: each time they show the “mysterious painting”
Do a Shot: for Kurt Russell: welcome back to making movies!
Take a Drink: for every time Terence Stamp disses his fellow Interpol officer
Take a Drink: for each plot twist