Review: The Art of the Steal (2014)

The Art of the Steal - 2014 - 1

Director: Jonathan Sobol
Screenwriter: Jonathan Sobol
Cast: Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Chris Diamantopoulos, Matt Dillon, Katheryn Winnick, Terence Stamp, Devon Bostick & Kenneth Welsh
Runtime: 90 min // Certificate: 15

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbqvELZ1-P8]

If you’ve seen one caper film you’ve seen them all. There’s only so many times you can watch a bunch of apparent misfits cobble together an intricate plan to steal X, Y or Z before it grows tiresome, and though The Art of the Steal is a perfectly enjoyable little romp, it suffers heavily from this fatigue of familiarity.

That the film relies so steadfastly on all the classic tropes of the caper genre is both its great success and fatal weakness. It’s a simple, unassuming little film that simply turns up and gets the job done, occasionally attempting to pull the wool over your eyes before riding off into the sunset, leaving behind a trail of passable but wholly forgettable pap in its wake. Be under no illusions, Jonathan Sobol – the film’s writer-director – isn’t remotely interested in subverting your expectations or doing anything radical, rather he sets out to tell a light, entertaining and sporadically amusing story with the occasional cheap thrill or red herring chucked in to keep the audience on their toes. In this respect, and with the aforementioned familiarity used to his advantage, he pulls off a half-decent job.

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Nonetheless, there’s no denying that The Art of the Steal is as predictable and mundane as they come. The result of this is that the plot – which is limp enough as it is – feels aimless and empty. Anyone who has ever seen any of the films from which this borrows a little too liberally will know exactly how it’s all going to pan out before the first act is through, though thanks to a typically engaging central performance from Kurt Russell (The Thing) and some decent supporting turns from Matt Dillon (The Outsiders) and Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon), the film remains engaging, albeit in spite of itself.

Ultimately, The Art of the Steal is an easy watch that is kept afloat by the camaraderie between its main stars and a desire on the part of Sobol to just have fun and not get bogged down in the details. Just don’t expect it to deviate from the rules of its genre even slightly…

★★½

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