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‘Lying and Stealing’: Fun actors, odd details set caper apart from the B-movie pack

Thriller breaks no new ground, but the pace is quick and leads Theo James and Emily Ratajkowski are ridiculously attractive

A thief (Theo James) teams up with a con artist (Emily Ratajkowski) in “Lying and Stealing.”
Vertical Entertainment

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Our anti-hero is a suave, stylish thief who wants out of “the life” but has to pull off ONE LAST BIG JOB before a ruthless, sadistic crime boss will let him walk —

All right, OK, everyone put their hands down. I know we’ve seen this before and it’s not as if “Lying and Stealing” even tries to break new ground — but director and co-writer Matt Aselton has fashioned a slick, cool, mischievously dark and fast-paced B-movie thriller with two ridiculously attractive leads and a strong and solid bench of familiar character actors spicing up the proceedings.

Our main guy, Ivan, is a dapper thief who specializes in purloining high-level artworks from unsuspecting richies. Ivan is played by the British actor Theo James, who has been in the “Divergent” movies and also appears in ads for Hugo Boss fragrances, which makes sense because he looks like a walking Hugo Boss ad (and comports himself onscreen like a pretty good Chris Evans knockoff).

Ivan’s eventual partner in crime and romance is the mysterious Elyse, a struggling actress and slick con artist who disguises herself with various wigs that hardly shake up her look. Elyse is played the model-actress Emily Ratajkowski, who is not going to make anyone forget Emma Stone any day soon but is a gamer and pulls off a couple of silly one-liners, e.g., she has a cat named Cat Stevens, and when she learns a particular bad guy is nicknamed “The Greek,” she says, “ ‘The Greek’? What is this, ‘Port Charles’ ”?

The great, baritone-voiced character actor Fred Melamed (of “A Serious Man” and more than a half-dozen Woody Allen films) puts generous helpings of mustard on his performance as the evil Dimitri, who is leaning on Theo to pull off these increasingly risky scores so Theo can erase the debt his late father owed to Dimitri. Evan Handler (“Sex and the City,” “Californication”) scores some laughs as Dimitri’s right-hand man, who at one point wheels a white board behind someone because he thinks Dimitri is about to blow the guy away, and the white board will be in place to catch “the splatter.”

Oh, and how can you not smile when Isiah Whitlock Jr. shows up as the obligatory dogged FBI agent who is hot on Theo’s trail and tells him, you don’t mean anything to me, ya punk — it’s your boss I want to bring down. Now are you going to do something smart for once in your life and help me?

“Lying and Stealing” takes some truly strange detours, at one point landing in a fortress deep in the woods where a Vietnam veteran has a room filled with Nazi memorabilia, including a self-portrait painted by Hitler. (A wealthy Jewish man wants to buy the painting on the gray market so he can burn it.) There’s also a subplot about Elyse vying for roles in Italian horror films so she can pay off a debt to a sleazy producer.

And we mentioned the cat named Cat Stevens, yes?

In that case, we’re good to go. Let the lying and stealing commence.