The Art Of The Steal (Blu-ray Review)

Art-Of-The-StealAnchor Bay’s The Art Of The Steal is another one of those movies making the Video OnDemand market even more deserving of your attention.  This one even boasts a pretty impressive cast.  Nobody is a “wow how’d they get them!?” kinda deal, but as a collection of people its rather enough to peak your interests and sell the film.  It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and made its VOD debut earlier this year.  The film comes from Canadian director Jonathan Sobol of whom I am completely in the dark regarding the other works he has written or directed.  But after this one, he’s sure proven himself as someone to keep on your radar, as he shows some real potential with his sophomore directorial effort.

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Crunch Calhoun and his brother Nicky are a part of a team committing art heists.  After one goes terribly wrong, Nicky is apprehended by the authorities.  Nicky then betrays Crunch, sending him on a 7 year long sentence.  Crunch gets out after five and half years on good behavior and winds up becoming a motorcycle stuntman for a traveling circus.  He’s got himself a young girlfriend and a mechanic pal in his friend Francie.  All is seemingly going relatively fine for Crunch, even though he does take some painful dives off his bike for extra cash.

Fine, until one day when an ex-partner of Nicky’s whose been double-crossed shows up to get information or stolen goods out of Crunch.  Nicky has stolen the Georges Seurat and left his partner in the cold.  The man takes Crunch’s bike for collateral damage done to him by Nicky.  This brings Crunch out of retirement.  He gets his old gang back, including Nicky to help get him and everyone else plenty of money so they can all start their lives back up afresh.  As an added challenge, the FBI is already onto them with the assistance of a form art heist ex-con watching their every move.

Fellow Why So Blu writer Aaron Neuwirth described this film to me as a “strong decent” and I’m inclined to agree.  It’s much better than average.  But, it definitely doesn’t stray far from being that bubble gum kind of “typical heist movie” that sort of has come in the wake of the Ocean’s Eleven remake.  It’s character archetypes and plot beats all seem to be marking things off of the proverbial pop-heist movie checklist.  No, the film isn’t wholly original and doesn’t really have any unique spin on the genre.

But, while it does seem to have a safe “by the numbers” script, it absolutely makes up for those shortcomings in terms of cast and craft.   For starters, like most movie geeks, I’m a huge Kurt Russell fan.  He doesn’t do a lot of movies anymore, and when he does, its a big deal.  So just getting a new Kurt Russell movie is awesome enough, but to know how involved he was with the process with this one just gives me an even further appreciation.  He also works well onscreen with Jay Baruchel who continues to impress.  While he brings a tame version of the type of character he plays, he always manages to bring a good sense of genuine humanity to his characters, no matter how crazy the role.  Matt Dillon is as good as ever playing the usual dirtbag he’s good a being when given the chance.  Also, Hellraiser 8‘s Katheryn Winnick (in which she co-starred with Superman himself, Henry Cavil) is here for a smaller role, but significant role.

Jonathan Sobol does take a little indie heist film and make it feel as ever important as even the biggest caper with a good sense of pacing, setups and overall fun.  I really enjoy the moments when a character would tell a story and he’d change the aesthetic to that of a 1930’s type of film.  All in all, Sobol crafts a film that feels a bit bigger than it is, and positions himself with The Art Of The Steal as a sort of “audition” film for taking on a much bigger budgeted, larger scaled film in the future.

If you like heist films or are just looking for something solid on the VOD format line, give The Art Of The Steal a shot.  It’s not going to blow your mind or anything or make you tell your friends “you have GOT to see this”, but it will entertain you greatly for an hour and a half.  Plus, its got Kurt Russell in the lead of a film and he gets to add the name of Crunch to his resume of characters.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1

Clarity/Detail: This is a modern film released by Anchor Bay.  So, its to no surprise that the image is razor sharp and highly detail.  The film has a very fine and detailed look.  People, objects and surfaces all have a detailed and lifelike image quality.

Depth: There are some good 3 dimensional moments, especially a scene when Nicky and Crunch are walking down the strip as Nicky pickpockets unassuming pedestrians.  Also there’s a good sense of space during the opening when art is being passed through hole in a safe-like box and you can see Kurt Russell through a hole cut into the bottom.

Black Levels: Black levels are a bit rich, but in some shots looked a bit brightened up.  Nothing distracting though.  No detail was lost during super dark scenes either.

Color Reproduction:  This is a colder looking film, but colors are very solid and bold.  Whites stand out quite a bit and I find them kind of mesmerizing.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are consistent and detailed.  Every crack, pore and bit of stubble are visible.  Skin tones tend to be a bit cold.

Noise/Artifacts: None witnessed during this review.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The film features a good range of sound from crashes to distant voices.  Score and effects are mixed in well and not distracting at all. While the film does feature some action, its not based on loud things and mainly dialogue and people “hurrying up what they’re doing”.

Low Frequency Extension: Motorcycle and truck engines prr wonderfully on this track.  Aside from those, its mainly doors closing and a crash here or there.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a mostly front heavy track, the rear speakers are used mainly for ambiance and a muted score.  There is some crowd noise early on during the circus sequence, but that’s it.  There is some good right to left movement during chases.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear, crisp and cleanly audible throughout.

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Lighter on the extras, but they provide some significant material.

Feature Commentary – Features writer/director Jonathan Sobol and producer Nicholas Tabarrok.

Do The Crime: Making The Art Of The Steal (SD, 29:36) – A lenghty mini-doc that goes over making the film.  It mostly just goes through each character and has everyone talking about their place in the story and the actor that plays them.

The Making Of “The Theft Of The Mona Lisa” (SD, 5:03) – A montage of the story sequence that shows the shooting of the scene and slowly adds the effects until we get to the final product.

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The Art Of The Steal is a nice escape for 90 minutes.  Its that kind solid thing that’s not incredible, but does the trick.  Like, say, a frozen pizza.  Anchor Bay gives their typically solid presentation with a nice commentary and an above average featurette to go with it.  At the right pricepoint, this is definitely something to pick up out of curiosity.  It won’t wow or change your life, but it will definitely entertain you.  And Kurt Russell fans, don’t be shy to add this to the collection.  It truly is a “strong decent”.



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