A caper film that spends a great deal of time telling you what's going to happen, and then explaining what happened, "The Art of the Steal" is also a widescreen comic book. Startling colors, elaborately constructed pictures and big titles flashing across the frame telling you who and what everyone is: Nicky "The Idea Man" (Matt Dillon); Paddy "The Rolodex" (Kenneth Welsh); Guy "The Scratcher" (forger) (Chris Diamantopoulos). "It's always nice to know who you can trust," says "The Wheelman" aka Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell). His meaning being, you can't trust anybody.
The caper -- it's not a spoiler -- is an art theft involving art hidden inside art: a Georges Seurat pointillist masterpiece stuffed inside a sculpture that itself would be worthy of the R rating afforded this movie. But the thrust of the film is really about the characters: Crunch is a hustler with a modicum of integrity; Nicky, his brother, was responsible for Crunch's five-plus years in prison. Paddy is a foxy old dog with a trail of romances, and Guy is the insufferable Frenchman who always seems to turn up in these movies.
Jay Baruchel, veteran of all those Seth Rogen-Jonah Hill features, is a breath of fresh air as Crunch's sidekick, Francie. Baruchel, having been in all those stoner comedies, should feel half at home. "Art of the Steal" is a comedy for the half-stoned.
Very good, as usual, is Terence Stamp as the felonious art expert Samuel Winter, who's teamed with "Daily Show" regular Jason Jones as Interpol Agent Bick. Even though Sam is working with Bick to get his sentence reduced, he misses no opportunity to torture his baby-sitter with the well-planted insult. It's the best part of the film. "Men of our vintage," Sam says to Crunch, "should be retired." Viewers will be thinking, "Not necessarily."
PLOT Art thieves with interconnecting baggage concoct an elaborate heist involving Georges Seurat, the Gospel of St. James and Canadian Customs.
RATING R (language, including sexual references)
CAST Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon, Terence Stamp, Katheryn Winnick, Jay Baruchel, Jason Jones
BOTTOM LINE Snappy, clever, broadly comedic and too obvious for words, of which there are many.