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Thick as Thieves

Sometimes straight-to-video really doesn't mean the film is garbage. Shot in the spring of 1998, Thick as Thieves, a nice little crime caper, was screened in Los Angeles and London in October 1998 and then made its official debut at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival in January, where it was purchased by Rogue Pictures (a little-known division of October Films). But after that, things went awry. According to the Bruce Greenwood website, plans for Thick as Thieves's release were interrupted when USA Pictures bought October Films. In the shake-up, the movie was sold to DreamWorks, but after two release dates were canceled DreamWorks then sold the movie to HBO. The cable channel aired it starting in January of 2000. Watching the finished film on DVD from USA, it's hard to see what the executive objections to the film could have been, unless the bigshots thought that the market was over-saturated with Tarantino knock-offs — which this isn't. If anything, Thick as Thieves — adapted from a first novel by former sports writer Patrick Quinn — is of the Elmore Leonard school of comic thriller. In fact, major scenes take place in both a Leonardian Detroit and Miami. Directed by first-time helmer Scott Sanders, the film is about a double-cross between thieves resulting in escalating retaliations. Alec Baldwin plays Mackin, a Chicago professional burglar with a vast jazz record collection and an affection for his dying pet dog (which we see him swipe from betraying girlfriend Janeane Garofalo in a set-in-the-past prologue). Mackin is asked by his gangster colleague Riles (Richard Miano) to participate in a food-stamps heist in Detroit, in partnership with Pointy (Michael Jai White). But Pointy doesn't play fair. In fact, he is one of those classic Leonard dumb crime lords, and only his close aid Dink (Andre Braugher) keeps the organization within bounds. When Mackin escapes with his life, he enlists the aid of two buddies (Greenwood, Ricky Harris) to go back to Detroit and harry Pointy. Meanwhile, an angry mob boss (David Byrd) and a female police officer (Rebecca De Mornay) are each in their own way trying to contain the mess. Thick as Thieves is a pretty good crime film, with a wonderfully charming performance from Baldwin and excellent turns from a varied cast of character actors. The narrative is a constant surprise. The mob, it seems, has Sopranoesquely entered the grocery store business, which is nickel-and-diming them to death. And when a problem reaches its sudden solution, Mackin is depressed, and Riles asks him if that's because he is "unfulfilled" by the solution. As an alternative, Riles invites Mackin to join his softball club (you have to be there). Only the De Mornay subplot drags, as we learn too much about her, and it's all irrelevant to main situation (plus it's sad to see how former sexpots like her and Sharon Stone always end up cutting their sexy long hair to an administrative bob and start playing older cops with problems). USA Home Entertainment's DVD comes with few extras. Both widescreen (1.85:1) and full-screen versions of the film are on board, and audio is in both DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Trailer, notes, subtitles. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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