“This Is A Theft: The World’s Greatest Art Heist” spans four episodes and follows what is now a traditional Netflix criminal structure of talking heads, archival footage and recreations – the shots by drones are also a plus. The truth is, these series are starting to get incredibly familiar, almost as predictable as something like “Dateline NBC” in their obvious presentations. We’re hoping for something that breaks the shape a bit, and some of Netflix’s most interesting original detective shows have done just that. The problem here is that not only is Colin Barnicle’s series formally out of date, but it never really knows what story to tell. His lens is almost hyperactive, especially as he tries to become an art history doc and a detailed look at the Boston mob in later episodes. It’s an odd project that would have been better served by being either longer to dig into its many connecting strands or shorter to focus more. As it stands, “This is a Robbery” alternates between superficially digging into major issues like the impact of crowds around the world (it scours the IRA, for example, and its connection to the Boston crowd in minutes. ) and repetitively repeating the details of the crime itself. It’s interesting because the box and its many actors are interesting, but it is poorly done.
There are a lot of memorable characters portrayed in “This Is A Theft,” but the first prime suspect in this case was Rick Abath, a Gardner security guard who not only opened the door to bogus cops, but allegedly was the one there. last person in a room in which a work of art was stolen according to security monitors. He may have been found with duct tape around his face, but is it possible that he was the guy inside and took a painting for himself? Absolutely. But investigators have found no solid evidence to charge him and may have been distracted by interest in Myles Connor, a legendary art thief who happens to be based in New England. Small problem: he was behind bars at the time.
“It’s a robbery” has an impetus that makes us go from suspect to suspect in an admirably quick but sometimes too quick manner. It’s filled with timeline charts and the kind of org charts of suspects and their bosses you see on broadcasts about the FBI crowd investigations, but there’s a difference between full and cluttered, and the approach of Barnicle too often tends towards the latter. It doesn’t help that much of this story is built on hearsay and guesswork. Someone may have seen one of the paintings while visiting a house. Another painting could have been hidden here or there. Maybe Connor was involved, or at least his trailer of stolen goods. Who knows? By the time “This is a Robbery” starts to really dig into one of its main topics and how / why it did it, that’s it. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that there wasn’t a better, tighter way to tell this story that would feel more satisfying when it’s over, and the feeling that it might be just a few years away being given the recent developments that are still unfolding.