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Art Heist (March 2/05)

With so many mediocre movies flooding video shelves, there's certainly a temptation to overpraise anything that doesn't completely suck. Such is the case with Art Heist, an entertaining but incredibly clichéd actioner starring William Baldwin and Ellen Pompeo.

The story kicks off with a brazen heist at a seemingly impenetrable museum in Barcelona, where a gang of thieves walks away with a rare, expensive painting. The owner of said painting dispatches Sandra Walker (Pompeo), a well-known art expert, to investigate the crime. Sandra quickly narrows the list of possible suspects to a ruthless Russian mobster, a suspicion that's confirmed after her life is threatened. This doesn't sit well with Sandra's estranged husband Bruce (Baldwin), a New York City cop who immediately flies to Spain to help out with the case.

Art Heist, written by Diane Fine and Evan Spiliotopoulos, is packed with predictable plot twists and dialogue that's less-than-stellar - something that's exacerbated by Bryan Goeres' hackneyed directorial choices. This is demonstrated early on with an exceptionally silly sequence in which the action cuts between a pair of flamenco dancers and the death of a particularly idiotic minion. It's the sort of device that's been used countless times before, and to far greater effect. Likewise, the film's conclusion is equally absurd, as it features that hoary cliché in which the central villain stands around explaining his motives when he should really be making a fast getaway. However, the most hilariously ludicrous moment involves an ill-fated goon who mentions his two-year-old son mere seconds before biting the dust (the second he brought up his kid, you just knew he was going to die a brutal death).

And yet, regardless of all the incompetence on display, Art Heist is surprisingly engaging throughout; Goeres keeps the film moving at a brisk pace, while Baldwin and Pompeo are effective in their respective roles. This is despite Pompeo's disturbing resemblance to Renée Zellweger, which is so eerie it almost becomes distracting (the two even share the same kind of giggle). She's actually quite good in the role, similarities to Zellweger notwithstanding. Baldwin is comedically over-the-top as a prototypical action hero, the type who yells a lot and never hesistates to rough up a suspect.

Art Heist is the sort of film that begins to slip from ones memory almost immediately after it's over, but approached on that level and compared with other direct-to-video schlockfests, the movie's not half bad.

out of

About the DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Art Heist with a crisp, clear letterboxed transfer. Extras are limited to a photo gallery and a trailer (along with several bonus trailers, for Face of Terror, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Dead Birds, and a promo for various '80s movies from Sony).