August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

Finding Steve McQueen

Universal, 88 min, R, DVD: $19.98, Blu-ray: $22.98, Aug. 13

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Filmmaker Mark Steven Johnson’s heist caper is loosely based on the United California Bank robbery of March 1972, in which a bunch of Ohio guys—who believed that a secret slush fund for the Nixon campaign had been stashed in a West Coast vault—traveled cross-country to steal what they thought would be $30 million in cash. Although the rumor proved false and the take was ultimately less, the haul was still large enough to rank as one of the largest robberies in U.S. history. The identities of most of the gang members have been altered here, but not those of Harry Barber (Travis Fimmel), a likable lug who admires Steve McQueen and patterns himself after the actor (thus the title), and his vaguely hippie-ish brother (Jake Weary). Both are nephews of the scheme’s master plotter, a seasoned thief (William Fichtner), who they join along with two others. The robbery—which involved an explosion that took out part of the building’s roof, followed by a search through the vault that dragged on for an entire weekend—is recalled in repeated flashbacks from 1979, when Harry, the only member of the gang still at large, confesses to his incredulous girlfriend (Rachael Taylor) before surrendering to her father, who is the local sheriff. Intercut with these flashbacks are the efforts of an FBI agent (Forest Whitaker) to solve the case. Conflating fact and fiction, Finding Steve McQueen is an amiable if also totally ephemeral example of the heist genre, bolstered by a better-than-usual cast. A strong optional purchase. (F. Swietek)