After serving five-and-a-half years in a Polish prison, career criminal Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell) is ready to renounce his thieving ways. This well-cast but tedious heist comedy begins with our grizzled antihero at a low ebb – moonlighting as a motorcycle daredevil who takes tumbles for easy cash. While recuperating from his latest accident, Crunch is contacted by his estranged brother and former partner in crime, Nicky (Matt Dillon), about the burglary of a rare book. Crunch is suspicious (it was Nicky’s fault he was in jail in the first place), yet the caper proves too tempting.
Sadly, ‘The Art of the Steal’ proves all too easy to resist, despite the best efforts of Jay Baruchel as Crunch’s hyped-up protégé and Terence Stamp as the world-weary informant helping bring them down. Russell is a pleasure to watch, especially in the film’s one inspired sequence: a silent-movie-like flashback to a legendary rip-off of the Mona Lisa, in which he gets to do some hilarious, moustache-twirling physical comedy. Otherwise, the film is made up of plundered parts from the ‘Oceans’ series and ‘The Usual Suspects’. It’s a pale imitation.