Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Art of the Steal

Year 9, Day 169 - 6/18/17 - Movie #2,664

BEFORE: The 2016 films are coming to cable more quickly now, I just saw ads for "Arrival" and "Jack Reacher 2" being promoted as airing soon - of course, I'm cheating by dipping in to a pile of Academy screeners, but even if I watch a film earlier than scheduled, I still have to remember to DVR that film when it airs so I can archive it on DVD.  Meanwhile I've got an eye on the 2017 release schedule for the rest of the year, and my decision to see "Wonder Woman" in the theater, instead of "The Mummy" or the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie seems to have been a smart one, based on what critics and audiences seem to be saying.  I wish I could say I made that decision after careful deliberation, but it probably had as much to do with the fact that I could link to "Wonder Woman" more easily than the other two - so, random chance, really.

For each film I take off the list, I seem to be adding one from 2015 or 2016, and those are the films I'm most interested in watching right now.  I suspect I won't dip back into films from the 1950's or earlier until October rolls around, but who knows?  Today's film is from 2013, and thankfully it has nothing to do with the President except the fact that the title riffs off his most famous book, which essentially is a guide for screwing everyone you deal with.  Yep, collectively we voted for that guy, and then we were surprised that he wants to screw everyone he deals with, including us.

Matt Dillon carries over from "Drugstore Cowboy", and I'm really shocked that I'll be watching at least four Kurt Russell movies this year, and not using him as a link at all, which seems odd.

THE PLOT: Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist.

AFTER: I'm back on art forgery + theft, which seems to pop up every year at least once, whether it's in "The Thomas Crown Affair" or "The Monuments Men", or "Tim's Vermeer", and last year this topic seemed to be all over the countdown, with "The Forger", "Woman in Gold", "Big Eyes", "F For Fake" and even "Hudson Hawk", "Lara Croft" and "The Pink Panther" (if you extend the topic to artifacts as well as art, that is.).

It seems like Hollywood doesn't know what to do with art, except show it being stolen.  But this leads back to heist stories, which I usually like.  We get to see an action film that combines beautiful things with cool technology and a bunch of sneaky people who are probably one step away from double-crossing each other.  And so the story is probably going to keep us on our toes with a good twist or two.  For the record, I predicted both twists in this film, the little one in the opening sequence and the big one later - but I was only about 5 minutes ahead of the plot, which is saying something, if the film could keep me guessing for that long.

Despite its insistence on breaking down the crew into its criminal archetypes ("The Wheelman", "The Brain", "The Rookie", "The Scratcher") this film still managed to tell a really good story.  In the opening gambit there was some stuff I'd never seen before - like a motorcycle chase ON a subway train - and one team member ends up taking the fall for the heist.  The second part is about getting the crew back together for "one last job", but what happens on that job reminded me more of "The Usual Suspects" than anything else.  (Unlike "The Crying Game", this is one instance where making reference to the fable about the scorpion and the frog would have made some sense.).

Tricks aside, there's a middle part that tells the real story of the theft of the "Mona Lisa", in which Vincenzo Perrugia, an employee at the Louvre, hid in a broom closet and simply walked out with it one day.  The man who hired him to do this, Eduardo Valifierno, paid him for his efforts but did not collect the painting, instead he asked Perrugia to hold it in his apartment.  Valifierno then hired a famous forger, Yves Chaudron, to make six forgeries of the famous painting, which he then sold to various U.S. patrons.  As long as the painting hung in the Louvre, a forgery would be worthless, but after news of the theft broke and the painting's location was unknown, the rules changed.  Valifierno could make more money, over time, by NOT selling the real item.

This story is re-enacted in flashback, using the same actors as in the main film, and really was the highlight here.  It has a direct impact to the plot, but I can re-tell this middle bit here without spoiling anything.  And the anecdote is not only true, it's part of what made the Mona Lisa such a famous painting, plus it illustrates the real art of the steal, not just the steal of the art.

Also starring Kurt Russell (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"), Jay Baruchel (last seen in "Robocop" (2014)), Kenneth Welsh (last seen in "Heartburn"), Chris Diamantopoulos, Katheryn Winnick (last seen in "Failure to Launch"), Jason Jones (last seen in "The Night Before"), Terence Stamp (last seen in "The Haunted Mansion"), Devon Bostick, Dax Ravina, A.C. Peterson, Joe Pingue (last seen in "Maps to the Stars"), Camilla Scott, Eugene Lipinski, Karyn Dwyer.

RATING: 6 out of 10 Polish inmates

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