‘This Is a Robbery’ looks at major unsolved crime

Rick's Reviews

Crime scene photos are a big part of the new Netflix documentary “This Is a Robbery.” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

 A documentary has the potential to steal viewers away from network and cable offerings this week.

“This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist” Grade 3 stars: A good heist story always has been able to captivate audiences. The allure of this project is that it is not only an extremely fascinating case but is a real story.

The four-part documentary series available through the streaming service of Netflix takes a detailed look at the biggest art robbery in history. During the St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 1990, legendary works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others worth half a billion dollars were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Because this is a true story, this is not a spoiler. Despite millions of dollars in reward money being offered the crime has never been solved and none of the works recovered.

Director Colin Barnicle does a deep dive into all of the possible scenarios that include looking at it being an inside job or a theft by organized crime. This is done by mixing together contemporary and present-day interviews with museum staff, law enforcement, art thieves, reporters and suspects. It is a story that covers decades and continues today.

Barnicle has done extensive work looking at the theft. The only weakness is that the work is so detailed that there are moments when the story gets bogged down and confusing. Cutting the project down to three hours would have helped keep the story tighter. And, there is the letdown that there is no conclusion as the case remains open. But, those are small flaws in a documentary that is overall criminally good.

New on DVD as of April 6

“Son of the South” Grade 3 stars: Lucas Till – star of the CBS series “MacGyver” – stars in this look at racism in 1961 that’s based on the true story of Bob Zellner.

There has been no shortage of films looking at racism but this production from director Barry Alexander Brown offers a new perspective. Till plays the grandson of a Klansman (Brian Dennehy) who comes of age during the early 60’s in the Deep South. Instead of following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Zellner joins the Civil Rights Movement. This gives him a first-hand look at the hatred that exists between the races.

Constance Curry’s script is based on Zellner’s autobiography “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek.” This footing in reality adds to the power of the project.

“The Reckoning”: A woman’s lies about being a witch puts her in danger.

“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”: Trip to Florida by two friends is anything but normal. Kristen Wiig stars.

“Shadow in the Cloud”: Secret mission during World War II turns into a battle for survival aboard a B17 Flying Fortress.

“NOVA: Beyond the Elements”: David Pogue tries to find the key molecules and chemical reactions that have paved the way for human civilization.

“Khalid: Free Spirit”: Khalid and music video director Emil Nava expanded on Khalid’s lyrics on the album to create a visual story of love, loss and the pain of growing up. 

“The Delicious Little Devil”: The 1919 film dealing with a young dancer who gets a job by pretending to be the notorious mistress of the Duke de Sauterne is being re-released.

“Earwig and the Witch”: Young girl discovers a world of magic.

Available through digital platforms:

“Running Naked”: Director Victor Buhler takes a look at what it means to be a cancer survivor. Look for it through Video on Demand.

“Hurt By Paradise”: Young poet and an aspiring actress support each other while pursuing their creative dreams. Can be seen through VOD.

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