This is a Robbery [Netflix] Review: A Normal Art Heist Documentary

One among historical past’s maximum confounding artwork thefts, on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, yields a four-part evaluation.

Crimes involving artwork are inherently fascinating. Even in its most simple shape, the robbery of a valuable murals is a unique draw, irrespective of anyone or staff’s explanation why for swiping it. (That enchantment virtually singlehandedly catapulted “Lupin” to “TV phenomenon” standing previous this yr.)

However what’s stored the occasions of March 18, 1990 within the public fascination is the whole thing about it that also is not sensible. “This is a Robbery” outlines the instances surrounding the pilfering of 13 pieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on that mythical day-after-St.-Patrick’s clutch. Jointly, it used to be a nine-figure haul of irreplaceable works from mythical artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas.

Regardless of the integrated chaos of the development itself — maximum particularly: a mix of transparent operation making plans and a apparently random sacking of artwork and slightly nugatory items — director Colin Barnicle’s four-part sequence is a moderately cast abstract of the main points that reporters, investigators, and witnesses had been ready to cobble in combination within the time since.

“This can be a Theft” begins with a spry creation of some of the extra related other people, them strikes to a dialogue of now not most effective what took place that fateful evening, however the affect that disappearance had on each the quick and longterm psyche of those that have been left to sift throughout the penalties. Starting with Anne Hawley, the museum director on the time, stretching out to incorporate native newspaper newshounds and federal regulation enforcement, and in the end touchdown on the house of an notorious determine in positive artwork laundering circles, all of the items are in position for a chain that may transcend the details of the case.

This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist. c. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

“This can be a Theft: The International’s Greatest Artwork Heist”


There’s a tinge of “This can be a Theft” that looks like a chain greenlit on spec. Whether or not it’s the crime’s 30th anniversary (which got here and went to little fanfare closing March, understandably because of the reality that there have been different fairly urgent international problems to cope with on the time) or a discount within the sentence of an individual of pastime, there used to be a non-zero probability {that a} smash within the case will have took place right through manufacturing. Usually, that is where in a evaluation the place the caveat “with out giving an excessive amount of away” would move, however a part of the attract of this situation that “This can be a Theft” does seize is that it’s a still-very-much-open enigma with out a lot important alternate since Obama’s first time period.

11th hour surprises are a long way from a demand for a compelling document sequence, and it’s one thing that Barnicle acknowledges within the early going, giving some early context for the museum and the artwork whilst providing up some background to the reports of one of the crucial museum’s safety guards. All of that is helping carry the crime into the world of the early ‘90s and no less than does a bit bit to tell apart those works from the notorious $200 million ticket that’s adopted the artwork since its removing. Composer Jason Hill additionally breathes some lifestyles into the ones early episodes with a ranking that is helping reframe one of the vital extra dour main points.

One major downside that pops up as “This can be a Theft” is going on is that the artwork itself turns into a glittery veneer masking a unique more or less insular global beneath. For all of the questions that also stay about the place the artwork are, the contributors within the sequence appear to have no qualms pointing to arranged crime as a key perpetrator (in no matter shape or staff it took place to in the long run cross via). Whilst a preponderance of proof unquestionably issues to a gaggle of heavies as a primary endpoint, the mob is way more represented staff in true crime leisure than artwork.

So when “This can be a Theft” takes that flip and shifts into complete true crime mode, it loses a lot of the character and spark that will have conceivably separated it from others within the style. The onscreen timeline, the white/black/crimson colour palette, the organizational timber, the floating over a monochrome map of the japanese seaboard: they’re all right here. The wish to untangle that internet of people, for logistics’ sake if not anything else, is a weight that finally ends up dragging the sequence down the longer it is going on. (Mere mins from the tip of the general episode, new figures are nonetheless being offered.)

This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist. c. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

“This can be a Theft: The International’s Greatest Artwork Heist”


Throw a dart on the Netflix programming lineup from the previous couple of months and odds are you’ll discover a true crime sequence with quite a few shared DNA with “This can be a Theft.” However as fresh Netflix doctors move, possibly essentially the most illustrative comparability is “Homicide A number of the Mormons.” That three-part evaluation of a gaggle of bombings within the Salt Lake Town house in 1985 used the finality of its finishing to place the target audience within the mindset of other people finding surprising conduct and deceptions because the tragedy used to be unfolding. Against this, the non-chronological way of “This can be a Theft” foregoes that concept in prefer of a scattershot parsing of previous illegal activity. Even the recreated visuals of “Homicide A number of the Mormons” had a definite smoky sepia grain to them that helped situate in a selected time in position. The fast silent cutaways in “This can be a Theft” have the similar shadowy, detail-obscuring aesthetic that might slide proper into quite a few different displays of its sort.

In all of the hypothesizing and theorizing, the items themselves get misplaced. One section does give a fairly extra thorough attention of the impact of Rembrandt’s paintings. The remaining, although, are consigned to that early-series, itemized-list montage of what used to be stolen that evening. “This can be a Theft” didn’t must essentially be an intro-level direction in artwork historical past, however the relative disinterest within the inventive context for this crime does level to this venture having a definite sense of true-crime tunnel imaginative and prescient. Towards the shut of the sequence, one of the crucial native newshounds who’s been at the Gardner case beat for the reason that starting says that it’s been “30 years that those masterpieces had been lacking. It wishes a smash.” “This can be a Theft” does a good activity at laying out what’s took place over the ones 3 a long time — it additionally does so much to end up that observation proper.

Grade: B-

“This can be a Theft: The International’s Greatest Artwork Heist” is now to be had to circulate on Netflix. 

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