Steal Big, Steal Little

1995 Directed by Andrew Davis. Starring Andy Garcia, Alan Arkin, Rachel Ticotin, Joe Pantoliano, Ally Walker, Holland Taylor.

REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Oct. 6, 1995

The tightly structured narrative of Andrew Davis' last film The Fugitive is definitely absent from Steal Big, Steal Little, his latest effort starring Andy Garcia as identical twins. Elements of screwball comedy and even a hint of Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World crop up from time to time, but the film needs more of a focus for it to succeed. While the fairy-tale element of the story about feuding twin brothers Ruben Partida Martinez and Robert Martin (nee Martinez) has its charms, the film's chaotic nature undercuts any type of moral that Davis may have hoped to communicate. Ruben and Robert are Latino brothers found and raised by eccentric artist and dancer Mona Rowland-Downey (played by Taylor, a dead ringer for Vanessa Redgrave), a wealthy and compassionate woman with a grand plan to open La Fortuna, her 40,000 acre ranch and estate in Santa Barbara, to the families who work the land. Having grown up with different ideas of success, Ruben and Robert disagree about the managing of the estate: Ruben supports Mona's plan, but Robert is more interested in selling the land to developers. When Mona dies and leaves Ruben as sole heir after discovering Robert's shady management of La Fortuna, Robert embarks on a plan to steal the land away from Ruben and the immigrant families who currently cultivate and live on the estate. Other plot lines abound as well: Ruben's reuniting with his wife Laura (Ticotin), his partnership and friendship with Laura's boss Lou Perilli (Arkin), his damaged friendship with his corrupt lawyer Eddie Agopian (Pantoliano), and an alleged affair with his sister-in-law Bonnie (Walker). Davis and co-writers Lee Blessing, Jeanne Blake, and Terry Kahn work hard to weave together these stories, but the film becomes a case study of how too many cooks can spoil the broth, or in this case, nearly the entire meal. Steal Big, Steal Little does work on other levels, however small. The natural richness of Santa Barbara's landscape and the kaleidoscope of colors in the sets and costumes establish a generally engaging and exuberant tone for the film. More impressive is the film's acting, and Garcia deserves credit for a convincing (and probably exhausting) portrayal of the ideologically-opposed brothers Ruben and Robert. Ticotin exudes an appealing strength as Ruben's estranged wife Laura, and Taylor's brief appearance as Mona is appropriately warm and flamboyant. Arkin's role as the fast-talking, faster-thinking used car dealer Lou showcases the actor's dogged and slightly offbeat wit. Acting and setting aside, though, Steal Big, Steal Little just can't seem to pull off the multiple story lines amidst its tale of brotherly love.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Andrew Davis Films
The Guardian
Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher co-star in this action drama about the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, which is a surprisingly engaging character-driven picture.

Josh Rosenblatt, Oct. 6, 2006

Adapted from the children’s book by Austin author Louis Sachar, the film features LaBeouf as a teen stuck at a Texas camp for juvenile delinquents.

Kimberley Jones, April 18, 2003

More by Alison Macor
'The Last Supper'
'The Last Supper'
'Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: 30 Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas': an excerpt

Feb. 26, 2010

The First Wives Club

Sept. 20, 1996


Steal Big, Steal Little, Andrew Davis, Andy Garcia, Alan Arkin, Rachel Ticotin, Joe Pantoliano, Ally Walker, Holland Taylor

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle