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Flawed and not as satisfying a structure as I would have liked but Braugher holds it together and keeps it engaging
Nick Atwater and his gang of professional thieves have just completed another successful robbery for agent Roselyn Moore, however a rare moment of greed saw them take money they found as well as their target. Unfortunately for them this money is the property of the Chinese mob and, although Roselyn gives the money back as soon as she learns of this the Chinese still intend to have them all killed to send a message. Meanwhile Nick has two very immediate problems one of the gang has started messing up due to heavy drug use and his step-daughter is in trouble with the police herself. Neither problem in itself is insurmountable but with the Chinese, a crooked cop and a personal tragedy, things suddenly get infinitely more difficult.
As a Homicide: Life on the Street fan, I was looking forward to seeing Thief when it came to the UK but managed to not notice its arrival on Sky until it was too late. Having spent ages waiting for a DVD release that never came I managed to get in touch with someone in the US who recorded it off TV for me (thank you!). This hadn't hyped it up for me but I was hoping that it would be good. The plot is solid from the start and I was engaged, thinking that this was going to be a fast paced six episodes. On the contrary though, the mini-series moved surprisingly slow and I'm not totally convinced that it had the depth to enable it to do so. I hate to always bring it into my reviews, but The Wire springs to mind a slow pace but every hour is rammed with material and "action".
Thief cannot compete on this level but it does still work for what it is. The crime plot is good but it doesn't all fit together as well as I think was the intension; the main heist is engaging enough but the Chinese mob and crooked cop bits don't really fit. It also ends rather abruptly as well so I'm not sure if originally the writers were hoping for more episodes to try and run everything equally and dove-tail more effectively. What does work as part of the heist plot is the family material with Nick and his stepdaughter Tammi. I am used to seeing this sort of material be an afterthought perhaps even a cynical attempt to wider the viewer demographic but neither of these appears to have been the case with Thief. Although not perfect in itself, this material does strengthen the story and make it more engaging than a straight heist series. However none of these things would have worked as well if it had not been for the single biggest asset in the series Braugher.
Of course I can be accused of bias since he was the reason I came to the show, but he did not disappoint. He lifts the material with a performance that is brooding at times, broken at others and, most importantly, he makes Nick convincing and real and goes beyond just being the character that each specific scene requires. I'm not describing it very well but at no point did he seem to be flicking a switch to act different things it all seemed to just be the same person in different moments. He dominates the cast for this reason but the others do still do their bits well. Whitman is not perfect here but she benefits from working with Braugher her character is annoying at times but her performance is good (and a nice surprise for this Arrested Development fan). Arias, Collins, Yoba and Yun Lee, Kim, Hamilton and Hall are all solid in support but Rooker is a disappointment. His character seemed incidental but was somehow pushed forward as a main one his bits distract more than they add and his performance doesn't produce anything to improve this situation.
Thief may not have been as good as I would have liked but it is still a solid, if slow mini-series. Attempts to vary what it is about are worthy even if some parts of it feel out of place or laboured but ultimately it still engages thanks to the usual high-quality work from Andre Braugher in the lead role.
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