Sunday, June 29, 2014

"The Art of the Steal" with Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon (2013)

Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist. The film is loosely based upon the documentary “The Art of the Steal” from 2009. That film follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' $25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art. This film deals with a rare and legendary manuscript, the Lost Gospel of James; who was Jesus’ brother.

The plot centers around a group of misfits who plan to heist a rare book known as the “Gospel According to James”; who was Jesus’ half-brother. In reality the book is considered to have been written sometime in the 2nd century A.D. The earliest reference I could find to it; I actually look these things up;  is by Origen of Alexandria in the early 3rd century A.D.  Well, so much for the history lesson.

In a film reminiscent of “Boondock Saints”; “Snatch”, and a bit of “The Usual Suspects”, the cast of characters is varied and they are all flawed in one way or another. The cast is headed by Kurt Russell, who plays a semi-retired art thief named Crunch Calhoun. He is now self-employed as a stunt motorcycle rider. He excels at crashing his bike in spectacular ways; and is often referred to as “Aren’t you the guy who tried to jump those 6 minivans in Vegas?” His estranged brother; and all of their friends; are of this same mold.

When Calhoun’s brother Nicky, played by Matt Dillon begins to plot the theft of the James Gospel he includes Crunch in the plan without telling him. This sets off a chain of events that involves a crew of thieves who are as clueless as the ones in “Snatch”, and as inept as the killers in “Pulp Fiction”.

Along the way you will meet them all, Jay Baruchel as Francie and Tobin Kenneth Welsh as "Uncle" Paddy MacCarthy; his role may be one of the best in the film. Chris Diamantopoulos gives his all as Guy de Cornet, while Katheryn Winnick is absolutely charming in her own way as Lola.  Jason Jones is notable as the uproariously inept Interpol Agent Bick who is stymied at every turn by criminals who are even more inept than he is. There are Border Guards, Priests,  a stoned ice cream truck driver; played by Jon Steinberg; a belly dancer and a whole slew of other wild and zany characters, too numerous to mention.

With an ending that even surprises this group of misfits, this is a movie which will have you scratching your head from time to time as you try and figure out all the twists in this unusual plot. And, when you finally figure it out you’ll go, “Wait a minute…” and want to watch it again just to be sure you got that right. It’s kind of like “The Usual Suspects”, only funny. This is one of Kurt Russell’s best movies in years. 

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