The Best Thief in the World (2004) Poster

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The Most Average Thief in New York
reel_emotion8 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Best Thief in the World is about a working class family in New York City trying to survive a crisis. It's another Showtime movie primarily involving kids (My Horrible Year!, Jack, Cavedweller, etc.)--Showtime is becoming the edgy After School Playhouse!

Mary-Louise Parker plays the mother of three young children. Her oldest son, Izzy, about 8 years old (?), is running wild on the streets, and she has no control over him. As the movie starts, Parker and her other children are going to see their ill father in the hospital. While Parker watches over her husband hooked up to oxygen, Izzy breaks into an apartment.

Izzy has his technique down. He buzzes the intercom until he finds someone not answering. He goes to that apartment through the fire escape and window. Some of the most humorous parts are what he finds and what he does in these apartments. He is not interested in stealing for monetary gain. He sometimes eats their food, takes a shower, moves their furniture around, and writes messages. The most disturbing thing that he does is that he always burns something--a candle or scraps of paper. It's all a ritual, a form of escapism, that helps him deal with his father's stroke.

Izzy's dad comes home because Parker's insurance is running out. She is an English teacher, and his coming home makes her unable to work. The stress point is high. Parker knows her son is up to no good, and he does finally get caught--the residents of this home were there in bed screwing, but not answering their intercom! Things escalate with Izzy's pyromania, and he sets an apartment afire. They live in the same building--and panic sets in on how they will get the father out safely because he is wheelchair bound. Fortunately, they are rescued, but they move back to Parker's hometown of Michigan as her over-bearing mother suggested because New York is no place for children--or for the down and out. The movie ends with the family, full of hope, leaving in the car, but essentially being forced by circumstances to make this decision.

I would probably like this movie better if it wasn't so depressing. Between scenes, two very young boys in the playground rap the filthiest things you probably ever heard. Parker swears and yells at Izzy, but you can tell she loves him. It's probably a more realistic version of a mother, but her comments border on verbal abuse--and it is no wonder that Izzy is on his way to delinquency. I don't know if I could watch it again.
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A beautiful, original film
suepaull1 May 2004
I thought the performances in this film were incredible and heartfelt, particularly Mary-Louise Parker and newcomer Michael Silverman as the mother and son in this loving but tortured family. Michael plays a boy growing up in a rough NYC neighborhood whose father has just had a stroke. He starts acting out by breaking in to other people's apartments. Sue (Mary-Louise) is a teacher struggling to hold the family together as best she can. They're never predictable, the characters are never sentimental... I thought the movie added up to something bigger than it was in a way that I was not expecting. I Didn't even feel like I was watching a movie until these bizarre young kids that act as a greek chorus singing funny and squirmy nursury rhymes right to camera reminded me of it (this touch may have been genius, but it threw me off). It is rare to see something like this on film. Best film I've seen in a while.
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Break in artist
jotix10029 January 2005
This film must have gone directly to cable. It's a credit to the director and writer of "The Best Thief in the World" to have enticed such talent as Mary Louise Parker, Audra McDonald, Lois Smith and David Warshofsky to appear in it.

If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading.

We meet young Izzy sitting on the ledge of an apartment building in Upper Manhattan. He appears to be trying to jump. We don't know anything of what will be revealed later, so we are not prepared to see this little boy break into apartments. Izzy is a disturbed child growing up too quickly in a hostile environment. His own life has been shattered by the stroke his father has suffered and has him bound into a wheel chair.

In a way, this is Izzy's way to escape his lot in life. By going into other people's apartments, Izzy is venting his frustrations for what life has given him and his family. He feels empowered and invincible; he can pull all those stunts and never be caught, or so he thinks. Izzy is hanging out with a rough group of children. All what this little boy wants, and never verbalizes, is that he wants to get out of the apartment where his father is a sad reminder of what his life has turned out to be. When Izzy discovers the money hidden in a hollowed bible, instead of stealing it, he just scatters the bills all over the house. In his childish mind he is telling the dwellers of the house they are vulnerable to having their homes broken into.

Sue, his mother, on the other hand, is trying to cope with the collapse of her life. She has to face reality because Paul, her husband will probably will not be able to earn a living and support his family anymore. Sue has no clue what Izzy is doing because she is too preoccupied about how to make ends meet.

The director has created a sort of Greek chorus showing two young black boys rapping 'gangsta rap' which is shocking. We watch in disbelief how they utter all kinds of profanities right at us, maybe to let us know that what we are seeing is nothing in comparison with what ghetto children have to face on a daily basis.

This is a disturbing movie, but it has its rewards because of what Mr. Kornbluth has been able to get from his talented cast. Michael Silverman makes an impressive Izzy. It's impossible to take one's eyes from this tiny actor; he holds his own playing opposite more experienced and established actors. Mary Louise Parker's portrayal of Sue is a study in how a person can be defeated despite of being a good person. Ms. Parker is always a joy to watch. Audra McDonald, Lois Smith and David Warshofsky are all excellent in their roles.

We look forward to future films by director Jacob Kornbluth
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It Takes a Thief
Bill17 January 2004
Two years ago at Sundance I loved Josh Kornbluth's directing debut-Haiku Tunnel. So I was looking forward to his brother (and frequent collaborator) Jacob's, The Best Thief in the World. This is a drama about a seemingly good kid growing up in a lower-class area of New York. The movie is not without its poignant moments. But at times it is as if Kornbluth is working way too hard to state the obvious: Life can be very difficult for some people. And life isn't fair.

More subtle, and more important, is our understanding that despite all of these somewhat abhorrent cultural underpinnings and the anti-social behavior they may spawn, these characters have no shortage of goodness and humanity. We can recoil at their language and their living conditions, but we are cannot discount their intent. And in fact, their struggles to maintain a family under such adversity has a certain nobility that most of us can barely appreciate. Kornbluth grew up in this neighborhood, and his compassion for the people is evident throughout.

Having said all this, The Best Thief in the World suffers from many painful flaws (including the title). The characters aren't very believable. The writing is uneven. And the plot-line is barely discernible. And for many the most disturbing is that Kornbluth uses two young black boys mimicking gangsta rap between scenes. To each his own: But while I don't question the potential realism of this phenomenon, it pains me to see 5-year-old children mf'ing and talking about having sex with a line-up of women. It's unnecessary shock value and is a forced bit of borrowed interest.
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Really interesting film with great performances
sparklersparkling11 May 2004
I saw this film at Sundance, and really enjoyed it. Strong script and very strong performances - particulary from Mary Louise Parker and Michael Silverman. I was really excited to read that Prince Paul from De La Soul had scored the film, and thought he and his partner Don Newkirk did a great job to produce a retro hip hop sound. Apparently they used a new camera to shoot the film, and it has produced a very high end, interesting look. I'd like to see more from this director. He's taken a very different direction from his last film "Haiku Tunnel", which played at Sundance a few years ago.
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Not your average Showtime movie
sushiichiro30 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
An extraordinary film, "The Best Thief in the World" stars Mary-Louise Parker ("Angels in America") and Michael B. Silverman in his acting debut.

In the film, 11-year-old Izzy Zaidman (Silverman) copes with the problems from his father's stroke by breaking into high-rise apartments in Washington Heights. As times are tough for the Zaidmans, Izzy's mom, Susan (Parker), struggles to understand her son's actions and emotions. In the end, Susan does what is best for herself and her family by moving to Michigan to live with her mother and teaching Izzy how to reconnect with the world.

I highly recommend this film, even if you're not a fan of independent films or TV movies. I know I'm not, and I was highly surprised by the dramatic and realistic attitude of "The Best Thief in the World." In order to better understand the film after viewing it, it would be a good idea to listen to director Jacob Kornbluth's audio commentary in the "Audio Options" menu of the DVD title screen.

"The Best Thief in the World" is an incredible film--you should see it.
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Underrated - Underanalyzed
trcumpire28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
While others disagree, I found the writing to be great and the characters to be more than believable. And while pieces of the film are shocking, to someone truly familiar with today's young people, it's nothing new. It's just strange seeing it on camera.

The film doesn't have a plot, but rather seems more like a documentary - following Izzy (aka Isaac) and his family. I say the film has no plot because it doesn't fully go anywhere, but rather explores the intense strain put on the family. Most specifically, it focuses on how Izzy deals with the world around him. Smart kid, bad crowd, and a mess of a family life. His antics are cries for help, but cries that no one sees or cares about for most of the film.

Overall, well put together and ignored for being unusual. If you let it, this movie will take you on an all too real ride in a screwed up America.
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Good about a future criminal ruined by awful score
OJT4 March 2014
Young Izzy (Izak), aged 8 or 9, is growing up with younger siblings in New York city in a troubled family. Mother struggles to cope and is close to a breakdown, the father is in a suffering from a stroke and is completely dependent on help, and not able to communicate. The insurance doesn't help, and she is forced to keep her husband home, while she still has to work, and a mother which is the worst nagging kind. Izzy is resourceful but troubled and is taking it out his own way, by breaking into apartments in his own apartment building where no one is home and even makes small fires on the floor. He finds out which apartments by calling the buzzers. Where there's no answer, he breaks in by windows or such. He lies, steals and do other kinds of destructive and dangerous behavior.

The film, which is second outing by New Yorker Jacob Kornbluth has a good plot, mixed with bit clichés and new thinking, but is immensely annoyingly made in more than one way. The actors are doing OK, and they are picked from an upper shelf, and they are all great. Young Izzy is played by first timer Michael Silverman, and deserves more chances in films.

But what's awful, is the music by a prince Paul, which is really bad. It's bad mixed and quite tedious, and when it's not the rap music, it some kind of elevator music. Simply some quite annoying choices. Sometimes there's a couple if colored kids popping up, out if context, like a Greek choir singing profound rap songs with an awful language. This feels offensive, and most certainly is supposed to. The music does a really bad job, because it makes you hate the movie.

Too bad, because there's both talent here, good morals, and a good story about kids with parents not able to be there like they should. It's pointing no fingers. The film just illustrates some reasons to kids not behaving, and even start off a criminal run. There's probably a lot to analyze here, and as such the film is interesting. Too bad it annoys you along the way. I'm sure that wasn't the plan.

The film gives answers, and is not without hope. Still, if you can endure the score, you'll have a OK watch, but don't expect to be too much uplifted by watching this, though this is a depiction of the real world out there.
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