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Film / The Art of the Steal

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The Art of the Steal (a.k.a. Black Marks and The Fix) is a 2013 Canadian heist film written and directed by Jonathan Sobol. It stars Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Chris Diamantopoulos, Matt Dillon, Katheryn Winnick, and Terence Stamp.

Crunch Calhoun is released after seven years in a Polish prison having been double-crossed by his half-brother Nicky following an art heist gone wrong in Warsaw. Barely scraping a living as a motorcycle daredevil, Crunch is tempted back into a life of crime by Nicky for One Last Job: the theft of a priceless historical book being held in a high security US-Canadian border station. Crunch reassembles the team from the Warsaw job and devises a plan, but Nicky also has a far riskier scheme in mind.

The Tropes of the Steal

  • Acting Unnatural: When Francie has to drive across the border with Crunch, Nicky and the stolen book hidden in the boot of his car, he is supposed to say two lines to the border guard: "Going to Detroit" and "Nothing to declare". However, his nervousness causes him to behave so oddly that the guard start asking him questions, and he then starts going of on all kinds of bizarre tangents, like claiming to be in a play called Witness!: The Musical and declaring that he likes Predator 2.
  • Actor Allusion: When Crunch tells Nicky that Francie is his apprentice, Nicky makes a comment about Crunch being a wizard. Jay Baruchel, who plays Francie, starred as a wizard's apprentice in The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: While attempting to explain to the border guard why his wearing a false beard, Francie claims that he is in a play called Witness!: The Musical. (And yes, he specifically mentions that it has an exclamation mark.)
  • Badass Biker: After getting out of prison, former Getaway Driver Crunch Calhoun works as a motorcycle daredevil who takes cash from event organisers to deliberately crash, because that's what the crowds have come out hoping to see.
  • Badass Driver: Crunch used to be regarded as the best Getaway Driver in the biz. He shows his chops when he loses two motorcycle cops who are pursuing him by not only driving into the subway, but through a train.
  • Bad Habits: The middleman in the deal for the Gospel According to James is called 'the Reverend' who dresses like a priest, including a clerical collar. However, there is no evidence that he is actually a minister of religion.
  • Book Ends: Starts and ends with a character being released from prison, accompanied by a voice-over narration that starts:
    Seasoned crooks swear you only remember two days about your stretch in jail: the day you get in...and the day you get out.
  • Boxed Crook: Samuel Winters is a convicted art thief who has been paroled into the custody of Interpol agent Bick to assist him in identifying forgeries.
  • Brick Joke: "You wouldn't know a vagina if it was four foot tall and staring you in the face." Pays off hilariously at the end of the movie when Agent Bick is looking at the modern sculpture of a vagina the gang used to smuggle the gospel out of the border station. He asks "What the hell am I looking at?"
    Samuel Winter: It's four foot high and staring you in the face.
  • Caper Crew:
    • Nicky: The Mastermind and becomes the Fall Guy at the end of the movie
    • Crunch: The Driver and The Muscle and revealed to be the actual Mastermind at the end of the film
    • Uncle Paddy: The Fixer. He is the guy who knows everybody and can get anything. Also acts as The Conman (posing as an art expert in Warsaw) and The Fence (usually has a buyer waiting for the team's loot).
    • Guy: The Specialist. He is an expert forger who can create anything from a Matisse painting to a Gutenberg Bible.
    • Lola: The Distraction. Fills in whenever the crew needs a female role, such as pretending to be Olga on the phone. But her primary role is keep Nicky from cottoning on to Crunch's real plan.
    • Francie: The New Kid. Crunch's 'apprentice', he gets dragged along and does whatever he's told (often badly). Useful because he has no record and the cops don't know him.
  • Car Hood Sliding: The thief who originally stole the Gospel from the Amsterdam gallery slides across the bonnet of a parked car as he escapes from the pursuing policeman, surreptitiously tossing the book into the car as he does so.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Nicky seems genuinely unable to stop himself. He sells out his half-brother Crunch to the police after the job in Warsaw goes sour; knocks out Sunny and abandons him (leaving behind a mocking apology card) so he doesn't have to pay him the $30,000 his is owed for his part in The Heist; and plans to double-cross the rest of the Caper Crew and abscond with the loot from The Con. Nicky says he's just doing what everyone else would do if they thought they could get away with it. Crunch says he doesn't blame Nicky for his behaviour, but he does hate him for it.
  • The Con: The entire scheme to steal the Gospel According to James and sell off forgeries to multiple buyers who think they are buying the original is actually a con to take down Nicky, steal his money and and get him arrested as payback for betraying the Caper Crew during the Warsaw job. It relies on Nicky's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in order to work.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Crunch Calhoun's given name is Dennis. He keeps telling Uncle Paddy—the only character who does address him as that—to stop calling him that, although no reason is given for his dislike of the name.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: On being told that Bick is an Interpol agent, Francie's reaction is an incredulous "Interpol's real?!"
  • Fan Disservice: The aging, overweight Uncle Paddy (played by Kenneth Welsh) in a Spy Catsuit in what turns a (fortunately) short-lived Imagine Spot.
  • Getaway Driver: Prior to spending seven years in a Polish prison, Crunch was regarded as the best getaway driver in the biz.
  • The Heist: The plot centers around a plan to heist the Gospel According to James from a secure Canadian border station.
  • Imagine Spot: The raid on the border station is shown in the style of an action movie with the Caper Crew blowing open the front while Crunch screams through on a motorcycle, and Uncle Paddy drops through the ceiling in a Spy Catsuit. However, this in then revealed to be Crunch explaining his plan while Planning with Props. Nicky stops him and outlines all of the reasons why this won't work.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: The morning after the Binge Montage, a hungover Francie says:
    I, I taste an ashtray and battery acid and, like, stripper perfume.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: The film opens with Crunch being released from a Polish prison after serving a 7 year sentence.
  • Lemming Cops: The two motorcycle cops chasing Crunch in Warsaw follow in into the subway and onto a train, all while still on bikes.
  • Metaphorgotten: During an argument with Nicky, Crunch starts ranting about how Con Artists are supposed to have a code that makes them better than the thugs and gangsters of the world and how it may be horseshit:
    Crunch: But I bought into that horeshit, Nicky! And you, you just trample all over that horsehsit. And you just, now you, you got shit all over your, your boots, you know. You, you, you got shitty boots.
    Nick: Hey, the analogy's breaking down.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Agent Bick's initial attempt to threaten Francie with Prison Rape misfires slightly:
    Interpol Agent Bick: Let me ask you a question. You ever seen the inside of Sing Sing?
    Francie Tobin: I haven't.
    Interpol Agent Bick: Cause I know a lot of guys who would like to fuck you inside there.
    Francie Tobin: You hitting on me?
  • Money to Throw Away: When Nicky is attempting to persuade Crunch to undertake One Last Job, he tries to prove that it is not about the money by taking the cash he just stole by being a Percussive Pickpocket and tossing it into the air as he storms off. However, as he does so, he mutters to himself:
    There has to be a cheaper way to do this.
  • Once More, with Clarity: During the celebration at the end of the film after Nicky has been arrested, Crunch explains to a confused Francie how The Con really went down, along with flashbacks showing what Francie thought he saw and what really happened.
  • One Last Job: The Warsaw job was intended to be this, but things went wrong. Seven years later, the theft of the Gospel According to James becomes a new last job for the Caper Crew.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: While arguing with Crunch on the street, Nicky bumps into a pedestrian and lifts his wallet. When Crunch asks him why he is still doing that penny ante stuff, Nicky claims it is just to keep his eye in. A few seconds later, he does it to a nine-year old girl and Crunch loses it.
  • Planning with Props: Crunch demonstrates his plan for the smash-and-grab raid on the border station using toys as props, before Nicky points out all the reasons it won't work.
  • Prison Rape: Agent Bick attempts to spook Francie with threats of this happening to him if he gets busted:
    Francie Tobin: Interpol? Fucking Interpol? I'm not going to fucking prison! I'm not cut out for that shit. Have you seen these fucking arms, man? These wet noodles will prevent very few prison rapes.
  • Pun-Based Title: A play on the title of Donald Trump's memoir The Art of the Deal.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Crunch and Nicky hide in the trunk of the car with the stolen Gospel and Francie drives them back across the border. Due to Francie Acting Unnatural, this does not go as smoothly as they had hoped.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: When Crunch is released after spending seven years in a Polish prison, Uncle Paddy contacts him about putting the Caper Crew who worked on the disastrous Warsaw job back together for a new job, including the one who sold Crunch out to the Polish police.
  • Sarcastic Confession:
    • When Sunny corners Crunch in his bathroom, pointing an antique pistol at him and demanding the Seurat, Francie knocks on the door and asks Crunch what's happening:
    Crunch: I'm being held at gunpoint by a pirate. I'm in the bathroom. What do you think, Francie?
    • When Francie tries to bluff his way past a border guard, who asks him if he has anything in his trunk:
    Francie: Do you think I have smugglers in my trunk? I have two American thieves in the trunk of this car that I'm crossing your border with right now. Please! Please, have a look. See, see all the criminal activity happening in my trunk right now!
  • Spy Catsuit: Uncle Paddy wears one while dropping through the ceiling of the border station on a rope in what fortunately turns out to be just an Imagine Spot.
  • Tap on the Head: Nicky knocks out Sunny by rapping him on the head with a lead pipe (having first handed him an apology card reading "Sorry for hitting you on the head with a lead pipe"). Later Sunny knocks out Crunch by hitting him on the head with a lead pipe before he attempts to extract Nicky's location and/or $30,000 from him.
  • Train Escape: Fleeing from the police, Crunch rides his dirt bike down into the Warsaw metro and onto a subway train. Two Lemming Cops on motorcycles follow. Crunch rides along the inside of the train and out a set of doors just before they close. One of the cops manages to follow, but the second is too slow and is stuck on the train as it pulls out.
  • Trojan Horse: Crunch's original plan (as shown in an Imagine Spot) involves smuggling Francie into the warehouse inside some kind of container, with him getting out with three minutes of oxygen to spare. Nicky shoots this plan down, but does implement a Trojan horse in an altered form: getting Canadian Customs to bring the forged Gospel into the warehouse by concealing it in a 4 ft. sculpture of a vagina.
  • Under the Truck: In Warsaw, Crunch loses the second motorcycle cop who is pursuing him by sliding his bike under a tanker truck that turns in front of him.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Two elderly Polish women on a subway train glance up briefly as three motorcycles roar down the middle of their subway car, then go back to their conversation as if nothing had happened.