A fancy-feast doc about art theft, Rebecca Dreyfus’s Stolen has all the earmarks of a ropy New Yorker article—the plumbing of a little-known underworld, high-end art scene glamour, a cast of wily eccentrics on both sides of the law, and even a reporter subtly adding herself to the mix. Fine, if several cable stations (including co-producer Court TV) weren’t doing this sort of thing so frequently it’s become a channel-surfing cliché. As a movie, Dreyfus’s sub-prime-time hour’s worth of material—about the 1990 heist of Rembrandts, Degases, and a Vermeer from a low-security Boston museum, amounting to an untollable sum—is dressed up with mushy bio of original museum benefactor Isabella Stewart Gardner and a repetitive array of Vermeerians mooning over the loss of The Concert. Central is the startling figure of Harold Smith, a “Renowned Fine Art Detective” (as Dreyfus’s caption delicately puts it) who, as a result of a half-century battle with skin cancer, cuts a wicked figure with eye patch, prosthetic nose, scars, black derby, and custom-cut suits. Despite the soft-spoken Smith, a type-A British liaison self-named the Turbocharger, and the apparent involvement of the IRA, the doc prioritizes flash over facts, leaving you pining for the New Yorker exposé it could’ve been.

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