Despite what its title suggests, the real thrill of this documentary isn’t the mysterious 1998 robbery of a royal Austrian jewel, but the many other criminal escapades of Gerald Blanchard’s that are chronicled here. Blanchard, who appears on camera for much of the doc, remains cagey (for legal reasons) about how exactly he orchestrated the titular crime, but even if he divulged his secrets, the jewel theft pales in comparison to his earlier exploits: his ballsy teenage shoplifting, slippery escapes from police custody, and subsequent spree of audacious bank heists.
The Jewel Thief benefits from a wealth of remarkable footage thanks to Blanchard's penchant for videotaping his criminal antics. This exhibitionist tendency is corroborated by testimonies from the many other interviewees featured here, including the two policemen who received taunting photos of Blanchard’s loot during their years-long cat-and-mouse chase. As indicated by the opening titles — “This is a true story… Mostly” — Blanchard also has a tendency to embellish his stories, which makes the fact-checking provided by these other participants a wise inclusion by the filmmakers. Ultimately, though, having such an unreliable subject isn’t a handicap — it’s a blessing, giving the documentary a winkingly ludicrous edge that helps it stand out in an overstuffed genre.
Genre: Crime, Documentary
Director: Landon Van Soest