Sunday, May 4, 2014

Blu-ray/DVDebut: Heisting con artists at work in Jonathan Sobol's slick THE ART OF THE STEAL

Say what you will (for instance, "What? Another heist movie!"), but there is something undeniably breezy and entertaining about a well-done film concerning con artists involved in that really big heist. When the film in question is handled with as much style and flair as is THE ART OF THE STEAL, written and directed by Jonathan Sobol, it's pretty difficult not to just lean back, relax and go with it. This is particu-larly true when the movie offers little violence (I think there may be a slap in the face and a punch or two exchanged); instead, there is clever, sometimes dizzying plotting and the kind of rat-a-tat pace that rarely allows you to parse the details.

My spouse did wonder aloud, early on in the proceedings, why the forger had to be stationed so very far away from where the deal was going down. (He's getting smarter, that spouse.) Otherwise Mr. Sobol -- pictured at right, double dimples and all -- has put together quite the nifty little entertainment, well-cast, with some folk we don't see all that often and certainly not together in the same movie (Kurt Russell, shown below, for one; Terence Stamp, shown further below, right, with Jason Jones; and Kenneth Welsh). Matt Dillon, in the penultimate photo, below, is also one of the stars. We see him a bit more often these days, and my goodness but he's aging wonderfully well!

The plot, such as it is, proves one of those surprises that come back to bite you (and one of the characters) on the ass, and you'll be murmuring, "Of course! I should have seen that...." But the beauty of the film is that you didn't. And then you do. And what fun it has been to be fooled.

This kind of foolery was done even better in the French film Ca$h, to which I think The Art of the Steal owes some perhaps unintentional credit. (If you have not seen Ca$h, you really should, and you can stream it here via Netflix).

Along the way, in what proves to be the most memorable moments in the film, we get a beautifully rendered re-enactment of what the movie explains was the famous heist of the Mona Lisa. Note the actors portraying the leads in this little five-minute film-within-a-film, as well as the lovely artistry that has gone into the recreation of this "event." (There's a fun segment on the Blu-ray's Bonus Extras showing how this was achieved.)

The Art of the Steal -- from Radius/TWC and running 90 minutes -- breaks no new ground but should certainly provide a nice evening's viewing. The Blu-ray and DVD hit the streets this Tuesday, May 6, and the film, I expect, will eventualy find itself on Netflix streaming, thanks to the recent deal between NF and TWC. (That's Jay Baruchel -- above right, with Mr. Russell -- who brings his usual goofy, funny charm to the movie.)

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