Finding Steve McQueen

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Finding Steve McQueen
dir Mark Steven Johnson
scr Ken Hixon, Keith Sharon
prd Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, Alexandra Klim, Silvio Muraglia, Anthony Mastromauro
with Travis Fimmel, Rachael Taylor, William Fichtner, Forest Whitaker, Lily Rabe, Louis Lombardi, Rhys Coiro, Jake Weary, John Finn, Ric Reitz, Kenny Alfonso, Robin McDonald
release US 15.Mar.19,
UK 16.Nov.20
19/US 1h32

taylor whitaker rabe

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fichtner and fimmel
Based on the true story of the biggest bank heist in US history, this film takes a sassy approach that keeps things light and amusing. Director Mark Steve Johnson goes big on the 1970s vibe, with period music, random sideroads and old-style car chases. And the rag-tag criminal gang is entertaining. But any possible tension is lost as the narrative is egregiously splintered into too many bits and pieces.
In 1972 Ohio, Harry (Fimmel) has been learning to drive a muscle car like his idol Steve McQueen. And he goes all in when his uncle/boss Enzo (Fichtner) hatches a plan to rob Richard Nixon's $30 million stash of illegal slush funds in Southern California. With three cohorts (Lompardi, Coiro and Weary), they head west to orchestrate their epic burglary. It's a remarkably complex plan for a group of inexperienced chuckleheads to pull off, but the way Harry thinks outside the box proves valuable. And perhaps their disarming clumsiness is their biggest strength.
The story is framed as Harry confesses his criminal past to stunned girlfriend Molly (Taylor) in 1980 Pennsylvania. The script also cuts to FBI agents Howard and Sharon (Whitaker and Rabe) investigating the break-in and making the Nixon connection, unaware that their boss Mark Felt (Finn) is Watergate's Deep Throat. As if that wasn't enough, the film flashes back to trace Harry and Molly's courtship. Even with skilful editing, intercutting the heist with all of this eliminates both suspense and momentum.

Fimmel keeps the bumbling Harry likeable, overplaying the dopiness that leads to high-speed scrapes with local cops. His scenes with the steely Taylor have plenty of spark, but not much chemistry. Whitaker has a low-key energy as the clever investigator who puts the pieces together, but it's a rather thankless role that never quite gets its due. Meanwhile, Fichtner steals the show with a lively, hilariously tetchy turn as the only guy who knows how to keep a low profile.

Each of the plot fragments features engaging scenes that are nicely performed, but the way everything is chopped together removes the interest, leaving the movie feeling like a collection of disconnected moments rather than a proper narrative feature. This also makes many sequences seem oddly irrelevant, distracting from the more entertaining heist with its offbeat twists and turns, and the more compelling political echoes. Indeed, the bigger picture is fascinating, but more focussed storytelling would have given it a visceral kick as well.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Nov.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall