Another film about the long-reaching effects of the Holocaust, Righteous Thieves chronicles the efforts of a secret syndicate dedicated to righting a major wrong by tracking and stealing works of art originally looted by the Nazis, then returning them to their rightful owners. Hitler waged war against abstract, expressionist and surrealist painters as affronts to the “virtues” of German life and labeled them “degenerates.” The culmination of his efforts to destroy their work resulted in the loss of 5,000 masterpieces that were secretly burned or sold at auction in Switzerland, and countless surviving artworks ended up in the hands of thieves. Seventy odd years after the end of World War 2, they are still sought to this day.
RIGHTEOUS THIEVES ★★ (2/4 stars)
In Righteous Thieves, four of them—a Picasso, a Monet, a Degas, and a Van Gogh—are discovered in Los Angeles in the collection of Otto Halzen (Brian Cousins), a notorious German banker-capitalist billionaire hell-bent on building a neo-Nazi Fourth Reich. The syndicate obsessed with stealing them back is headed by the beautiful Annabel (Lisa Vidal), who recruits a combination of patriots, rogues, relatives of concentration-camp victims, one master criminal (Cam Gigandet), and even a pretty and fearless girl from the U.S. Department of Justice (Jaina Lee Ortiz). Their goal: to give back to the world all of the beauty stolen by the Nazis.
They risk their lives to do it, and in the course of the flying bullets that follow, it doesn’t matter how many people they massacre in the process. It’s an interesting idea, only sluggishly directed by Anthony Nardolillo, with a cast of good but indifferent unknowns (to me). The action piles on the dangers (cracking open a vault where the paintings are hidden along with millions in gold bricks, overpowering security guards, unscrambling codes, springing locks, and facing double jeopardy thanks to one member of the team who betrays them) but separately or collectively, the cast shows no chemistry, thanks to a script by Michael Corcoran full of the kind of pauses that drag out the playing time instead of enhancing it with originality. Bullets fly, but none of them in the right direction.
Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.