Finding Steve McQueen is not a movie about the celebrated actor but about one of the biggest heists in US history. During the United California Bank burglary, more than $63 million went missing but the story is far more complex than that. It involves a lot of important people and it happened during a particularly interesting period of US history, the early seventies. So, what we have here is a lighthearted and stylish heist movie based on true events featuring a solid cast. We will be following Harry James Barber, a man whose idol is Steve McQueen (hence the title). He likes fast cars and money but is currently stuck at a dead-end job. I think you can already see where this is going.
The whole premise reminds me of another relatively unknown heist movie from 2019, Vault. It’s also taking place during the seventies and it’s also based on actual events. Both of them are mildly entertaining and feel more like television movies than regular ones. Finding Steve McQueen is just too loose and casual for my taste. Most of the jokes didn’t land and if it wasn’t based on real events, I guess I wouldn’t be recommending it. However, it also has a lot of things going for it like the groovy seventies atmosphere and an even groovier soundtrack. The pacing is also quite good along with the short runtime of almost ninety minutes.
The cast did a solid job, led by charismatic and handsome Travis Fimmel (Vikings, Warcraft). He was a bit off here, unlike in Danger Close but Forest Whitaker and William Fichtner covered for him. I think a lot of it was caused by bad framing and camera work. The scene where he’s in the abandoned movie theater with Rachael Taylor as Molly proves that. During that scene, everything looked great as they had a lot of good angles. And the editing was spot on. A bit of advice for all the young filmmakers out there. For the rest of us, these things are not of much concern. We’re here to be mildly entertained and mildly entertained shall we be.
We will not only be following the heist but also the subsequent investigation. And during the course of that investigation, we will meet none other than Mr. Deepthroat himself! I’m talking about Mark Felt, the man who leaked confidential information to journalists Woodward and Bernstein. And the two of them wrote an article that would later lead to the Watergate investigation.
Meet Harry James Barber, a man with a knack for getting into trouble. He’s currently working a dead-end job for his shady boss Enzo who has a proposition for him. You see, Enzo heard about this bank down in California that’s full of cash, jewels, and all kinds of valuables. And he intends to rob it. All he has to do now is put together a crew to do it. Which wasn’t too hard as he’s surrounded by career criminals. This means only one thing: the heist is on.
Apart from the usual crime stuff, Finding Steve McQueen is a movie that also features a bit of romance. It’s also a redemption story, trying to paint those shades of gray life’s all about. The characters we’re going to meet are flawed, each in their own way, but also realistic. They’re a perfect representation of that decade, the early seventies. You can also look at this movie as a character study drawing parallels to today’s world of influencers. Well, in the seventies, the actors were the influencers, and people based their whole personalities around them.
This is happening because the official tribal system of values spews out men who all conform to certain rules. And before they know it, they start feeling like they have no personality of their own. To compensate for that, they try to find things that will set them apart from others. Don’t get me wrong, people still do this today, it’s just there are a lot of “role models” out there so it’s relatively difficult to notice it. Back in the seventies, you knew exactly who was being McQueen, Eastwood, or Belmondo.
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Writers: Ken Hixon, Keith Sharon
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Rachael Taylor, Forest Whitaker, William Fichtner, Louis Lombardi, Jake Weary
Fun Facts: While in the movie the investigators catch a break in the case when they find prints at the scene, in real life, the crew did a similar robbery in Ohio linking them back to the original heist.