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Monday, March 19, 2018

ART OF THE HEIST -- DVD Review by Porfle

I'm not a particular fan of the typical heist film, but some of them really do it for me--really good ones such as the original OCEAN'S ELEVEN, the remake of THE ITALIAN JOB (yes, the remake), and now the exciting, suspenseful, and funny ART OF THE HEIST, aka "Fakers" (Indican Pictures, 2004).

I wasn't that thrilled at first during the opening scene in 1911 Sicily when a young artist goes from sketching a nude girl to having sex with her just as her Mafia Don father and his thugs break the door down and turn him into a historical footnote. 

But give this one five minutes or so, because after some opening titles that look like something out of a 60s TV series like "I Spy", the story jumps ahead to present-day England and starts getting interesting.

That's when small-time hustler Nick Edwards (Matthew Rhys) is given five days to pay back $50,000 to urbane but unbalanced baddie Foster Wright (Art Malik in fine form) or have his internal organs rearranged.

Nick stumbles across the Sicilian artist's unfinished sketch (now worth tens of thousands), then hatches a scheme to sell forgeries of it to various art dealers (including Rula Lenska herself) quickly enough so that they don't have time to compare notes. 

This will involve a shy, insecure young artist named Tony (Tom Chambers) and his big sister Eve (Kate Ashfield), a brash bartender for whom Nick carries a torch. 

But when she finds out about the deal, she blackmails Nick for half the take, forcing him to persuade Tony to make more copies to sell to more art dealers, making the whole scheme more likely to explode in their faces. 

Rhys' "Nick" is a likable lowlife with such an optimistic attitude (he's even gotten used to getting beaten up) that when things get messed up enough to make him sweat, we get nervous too. 

In fact, Paul Gerstenberger's keenly-written script is such a slow-burning fuse of nailbiting suspense that the middle third of the film doesn't ease up for a second. Richard Janes' direction is top-notch as well, making the whole thing effortlessly entertaining.

I won't give away just what happens next (not as much as the trailer and DVD notes do, anyway), but suffice it to say that, as in just about all heist films, the intial success of the clockwork perfect undertaking is then quickly and disastrously unraveled. 

In short, Nick loses the money he needs to pay off Foster Wright, the police show up and start arresting people, brawny gangster types show up and threaten to break people in half, and, worst of all, Nick loses Eve.

Can't there ever be a heist flick where they get the money and get to keep it?  Every time I watch one, I'm on edge the whole time just waiting for the other shoe to drop and the good guys--that is, the good bad guys--to lose everything they've worked so hard for at the last minute.  Like that's supposed to teach us a lesson just as we're vicariously enjoying their sudden incredible financial success.

But in this case, their total success would mean a shorter and less exciting movie.  ART OF THE HEIST is at its best once things start to go wrong, making us care about the characters, keeping us in suspense until the very end, and playing the story out just right.  As heist movies go, this one pulls it off like clockwork.

Tech Specs
Runtime: 85 mins.
Format: 2:35 Scope (35mm)
Sound: Dolby Digital/5.1
Country: USA
Language: English
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Romance/Comedy
Bonus: audio commentary, cast interviews, trailers, captions

Amazon video
Amazon DVD


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