Hulu’s ‘The Jewel Thief’ Documents the Escapades of a Criminal Genius

Ulises Duenas


The reality of crime is rarely as interesting and thought out as it's shown in Hollywood, but one exception is the life of Gerald Blanchard. His ingenious methods and brazen behavior made him famous after his arrest, and his compelling story is told in Hulu’s fascinating documentary, “The Jewel Thief.”


Blanchard grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and his awkward demeanor and appearance made him an outcast from childhood. Even his own adoptive mother says bluntly, “He looked like a nerd.” In those early years, he used petty thievery to gain attention and have some semblance of a circle of friends, and went as far as to document it with the video cameras available in the 1980s. The documentary does a great job of painting a picture of how Blanchard was in his teens, with the use of his own footage and testimony from his friends and mother. It paints him as a curiously sympathetic figure early on. 


Before he hit 20, Blanchard was capable of making tens of thousands of dollars by stealing electronics and bringing them back for full cash returns. Then he moved on to robbing ATMs at banks with methods that seem ripped from movie plots. He started by disguising himself as a worker to get into a bank under construction, then left cameras and mics to keep tabs on the workers so he would know when the bank would be vulnerable. Even though Blanchard is shown to exaggerate at times, the testimony from the police confirms that most of the details were actually true. It all makes for a thoroughly entertaining story.



If Gerald Blanchard was a violent criminal and his acts were more heinous, then this documentary wouldn’t be as riveting and fun as it is. While you wouldn’t call him a good person, it’s easy to view him as the protagonist of an almost fantastical story.


It’s rare when a documentary manages to feel like a popcorn flick without some dark turn or valley of boredom occurring at some point, but the entertainment here keeps on coming. Blanchard seemed to have a strange charisma about him in earlier years, which is documented in all the footage he made. Unfortunately, that charisma may have eroded eventually as seen in this documentary -- likely as a result of the high amount of stress he dealt with when working in a large criminal organization.


Seeing Blanchard's path of theft escalate from electronics to a priceless jewel is fascinating and makes for a film that’s easy to enjoy.


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer at Highbrow Magazine


For Highbrow Magazine


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