Thick as Thieves
Hard times in Hollywood: an expensive action/caper film starring Antonio
Banderas and Morgan Freeman goes straight to DVD. Worse. Not only did the
studio send Thick as Thieves straight to DVD, but they sent it straight to
Blockbuster as an exclusive!
Morgan Freeman, aged about 105, plays a grizzled old thief of rare precious
objects who is forced by the Russian mob to team up with a younger man
(80-year-old Antonio Banderas) to pull off an impossible score of some missing
Faberge eggs. Apparently they also need to corner the market on geriatric
Complete spoilers ahead. Do not read until after you
see the movie:
In fact, just about everything is a spoiler from now on. No way to avoid
it. Even now, when I tell you that nothing is as it seems, that is a spoiler,
but not a very important one, because most facts are buried deep inside
multiple lies, like one of those Russian nesting dolls. When the first group
of lies is exposed, the apparent truth will probably turn out to be just
another elaborate lie, and the morass grows ever murkier because everybody is
conning everyone else, and because the facts hidden from the characters are
not precisely parallel to the facts hidden from the audience, so we have to
try to figure out who knows what, and why that might be significant.
I have no objection to that. In fact, I like that kind of story when it is
done right. David Mamet's Heist, for example, is a lot of fun to watch, and
bears many superficial similarities to this film. In that film, an elderly
thief of rare precious objects (Gene Hackman) is forced to team up with a
younger man (Sam Rockwell) to pull off an impossible score of some precious
The difference between Heist and this film is that the script for Heist was
subjected to intense scrutiny and vetted by multiple logic checks, so that the
movie makes sense if you re-watch it after learning everyone's secrets. Thick
as Thieves did not follow that example. Examples:
(1) If Antonio Banderas is an undercover Miami cop working with the NYPD,
as he is later revealed to be, why is he shown exchanging live ammunition with
New York cops in the first scene?
(2) The entire plot hinges on one point: that Banderas will be fooled when
Freeman's ex-partner (who is not really dead) impersonates a Russian mobster.
This makes no sense at all. First of all, Banderas had been studying
everything about Freeman in order to lure him into a trap. He was hoping to
become Freeman's new partner, so it makes no sense that he would not have
learned everything there was to know about Freeman's former partner. Second,
it makes no sense that Freeman would assume Banderas' inability to "make" the
impersonation, because Banderas should have known what the ex-partner
looked like. NYPD knew the guy's identity and had pictures of him. Freeman
could not risk the possibility that Banderas would recognize his not-so-ex-partner because if Freeman
had been wrong on that one point the whole scam would have fallen apart, and
he would have been in jail forever.
What makes this all even more irritating is that it is not essential to
Freeman's scheme to have the ex-partner impersonate the Russian mobster. Anyone could have done
it, and the scam would still be the same. The impersonator didn't even need to
speak Russian, since he only needed to fool Antonio Banderas. (In fact, I
don't think the actor playing the part of the ex-partner, Rade Serbedzija,
speaks Russian.) It would have been far more secure
for Freeman to use an unknown guy, and he already had them on the payroll!
There are two other Russian guys fake-playing members of the same mob. One of
them could have been playing the head mobster, and the other could have been
the henchman. Because they were nobodies, Banderas could not possibly have
But he should have made the ex-partner, and Freeman should have known that.
Of course if Banderas had, logically enough, been able to recognize the
undead partner, there would have been no movie.
I could keep adding to that list, but what would be the point?
You can probably see already why the film went straight to video despite
the presence of two top stars. Not only is the entire film a derivative
cliché, but it's not even tight. One wonders how so much money could have been
raised to produce this script, which would only make for an average episode of
a typical network TV crime show, except that TV crime shows are unlikely to be
able to afford such production values and the salaries of Freeman and Banderas.
Of course, I don't find TV crime shows unwatchable, and I rather like those
two guys (although Banderas is best when he is given a good chance to use his
gift for comedy, which is held in check here), so I made it through the film
without grabbing the remote. Your mileage may vary.
Radha Mitchell and
Banderas do two love scenes. In the first, Radha is theoretically naked,
but almost everything is hidden by elbows and arms and camera angles. In the
second, Radha walks past the camera in skimpy bikini underwear, and she looks