Blu-Ray Review: The Art Of The Steal (2013, Dir, Jonathon Sobol)

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I’ve been a big Kurt Russell fan for a long time. He’s had a long movie career that includes Disney movies when he was a kid, some of which I may have bumped into on the tube when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until he was in the employ of director, John Carpenter, that he first made a big impression on me, namely his first Carpenter film, Escape From New York (1981), where he played the now iconic anti-hero Snake Plissken. It’s those four flicks (Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Escape From LA), minus his 1979 Elvis TV movie, he did with Carpenter that I’m mostly a fan.

Outside of that he’s done some movies I’m also a big fan of—Used Cars (1980), The Mean Season (1985), Overboard (1987), Tequila Sunrise (1988), Tango & Cash (1989), Tombstone (1993) and Death Proof (2007).

There are some review copies I’ll ask for that I basically refer to as “curiosity requests.” These are generally movies I’m just hearing about, anywhere from a month ago to the moment I learn about it in the press release I get sent from whatever distributor or PR firm that’s handling the home video release. With Art Of The Steal I had previously heard about it in an interview with Russell a month or two ago, but all I remember from the interview was a brief mention of the title, then “coincidentally” a PR firm I normally get releases from just happens to send me info about it. I decided to request a review copy based on the simple fact that I’m a fan, haven’t seen him in a movie since 2007’s Death Proof, and was curious if at his current age he’s still got that indefinable something that made want to watch him all those decades ago when he was in his prime.

My presumption about his new movie here was that I’d watch it, find it mildly interesting, review it then pass it off to someone who might want to keep it. Bottom line, in no way did I think it would be a “keeper,” well, as usual, I was dead wrong…. fifteen minutes in I was loving it, his character and by this short of a time already coming to the conclusion Kurt Russell was still in possession of that “unknown quality” that keeps me and other fans watching. By the 51-minute mark I knew this movie was a keeper.

I’m actually surprised this didn’t have a big screen release, but then again it doesn’t focus on teens/young adults, or revolve around super heroes, hobbits, or have loads of obvious CGI, so, I guess, I can see why it probably played limited and then went straight to DVD.

The movie is about a group of art thieves. Kurt Russell plays one of the thieves with the second best name in movie history, Crunch Calhoun; first best is Snake Plissken. As the movie opens Crunch and his gang, which consists of his half brother, Nicky Calhoun (Matt Dillon), Uncle Paddy (Kenneth Welsh), Guy De Cornet (Chris Diamantopoulos) and later on in the movie, Crunch’s girlfriend, Lola (Katheryn Winnick) and his apprentice, Francie (Jay Baruchel), are in Poland in the middle of a job, when it all goes wrong after Nicky touches a painting he shouldn’t have. They get nabbed and Nicky implicates Crunch. Long story short, Crunch gets 7 years in a very bad Polish prison while Nicky walks free.

7 years later (5 ½ for good behavior) the crew is disbanded and Crunch is paying the bills as an Elvis impersonator stunt man who gets paid the more he falls. Nicky enters his life again with a plan to steal a religious book that if successful could net them millions of dollars.

Thrown into the mix is an Interpol agent who’s using another art thief, Samuel Winter (Terence Stamp), to nab other art thieves. They cross paths with Nicky and Crunch’s gang and, well, I can’t reveal any more of the plot. This is a caper movie and you know how these flicks play out. You’re being shown one thing when something else behind the scenes is happening and as we near the end all those twists and turns are finally shown; the ones this movie has was quite clever.

Anchor Bay is set to release this movie here in the states on May 6th in separate DVD and blu-ray editions.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 anamorphic high definition transfer—English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio—English and Spanish subtitles.

For extras you get ‘Doing The Crime: Making Of Art Of The Steal’ (29:36). This was a real good look into the making of the movie with interviews with pretty much the whole cast, the director and the producer, and the featurette, ‘The Making of “The Theft Of The Mona Lisa” (5:03). Most of this story within a story is a period piece where all but the actors and their immediate props in any a given scene were not CGI. Using split screen you see how the scenes were filmed in front of a green screen and the finished product is shown on the other side.

I highly recommend this movie. It’s one of those rare flicks where the casting is absolutely perfect. For me the standouts are Matt Dillon, Kurt Russell and Terence Stamp. All three very unique actors playing in one sandbox. That usually makes the best movies.

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