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Thick As Thieves

tn_thickasthievesToday I have for you a review of an obscure Alec Baldwin movie, complete with a tangent about Obama’s choice of condiments.

THICK AS THIEVES is a little-known crime movie from 1998 that I learned about because of BLACK DYNAMITE. That’s the Michael Jai White blaxploitation homage that comes out in September (I’m hoping to see it a little early because it’s playing the film festival here). In my excitement for that one I looked up the director, Scott Sanders. Turns out he wrote for A DIFFERENT WORLD and ROC, and then he directed THICK AS THIEVES.

Alec Baldwin plays Mackin, a thief hired to steal food stamps from a printing plant. After the job some dirty cops pull him over and try to take his money. He handles it, but knows he had to have been set up by the guy who hired him, Pointy Williams (Michael Jai White) so he tries to get back at that asshole. Meanwhile “the Italians” aren’t gonna be happy about what Pointy did so his people keep trying to snuff out Mackin before things escalate and they get into deep shit.
It’s adapted from some book by a guy named Patrick Quinn, but definitely is gonna remind you of Elmore Leonard and that type of crime story where the characters have little funny quirks. Also like Leonard the plot is full of coincidence and mistakes, the characters are kind of dumb and talk about goofy things, but can also be seriously dangerous.

mp_thickasthievesMackin’s biggest passion is for his aging dog, Wally. He brushes the dog’s teeth, he brings it with him out of town (although it has to stay with a bartender when he’s doing the job), he refers to himself as “we” because he’s always including the dog. Part of the story is about him trying to prepare for Wally’s death. It kind of reminds me of something Charles Willeford’s character Hoke Moseley would do in one of his books. I bet they cast Baldwin because of MIAMI BLUES, where he played the guy who accidentally killed a hare krishna, then stole Hoke Moseley’s false teeth and badge.

Mackin is also a huge nerd for record collecting, which is a good excuse to put some old records on the soundtrack. Some of the jazz is good, balancing out a fairly cheesy score. I like the scene where he’s in a record store examining a record with flashlight, magnifying glass and white gloves – he actually puts more care into his record buying than his robberies. Which shows he has his priorities straight, come to think of it.

Andre Braugher from HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET plays Pointy’s #2, Dink. He’s probaly the most competent criminal in the movie, but he’s working with people with names like Sugar Bear and Hot Sauce so he gets frustrated with everybody. And good for White, who gets a much bigger and better character than he usually gets. Pointy tries to seem sophisticated and is very proud that he owns a French restaurant. But in one of my favorite moments he insults the chef by asking him to make a dish that’s actually Cuban, then scares him by “accidentally” “joking” that he’d murder him if he tried to switch restaurants.

There’s also a part where his mom implies he’s uppity because he asks for dijon mustard. I guess all those right-wingers pretending to be upset about Obama ordering dijon must be huge THICK AS THIEVES fans. Did you guys hear about that one? I know alot of you are from Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and European country (top 5 countries after U.S. according to my statistics page – hello also to everybody else including Chile and Angola) so I should explain this one. A couple weeks ago President Obama and Vice President Biden went to some burger restaurant as a photo op when they were visiting Arlington, Virginia. The right wing radio, TV and web were quick to point out that they were NOT just a couple regular guys eating burgers because Obama had slipped up and ordered “like a spicy mustard or something like that, or a Dijon mustard, something like that.”

Sean Hannity did a whole story on it that ended with him saying, “I hope you enjoyed that fancy burger, Mr. President,” which I hope will become an iconic Edward R. Murrow or NETWORK type statement of outrage. But if you google “Obama dijon” you’ll find way worse than that, including a whole bunch of nitwits claiming that MSNBC “went to great lengths to cover up” this shocking scandal by not including a full condiment audit in their fluff report of the president ordering a fucking burger.

It’s funny because I know some of these people genuinely have philosophical disagreements with Obama, but this is still what they come up with to spend time talking about. Bush had the worst attack in our country’s history on his watch, badly fought two wars (one started based on obvious lies), dumped our economy into the shitter, made torture legal, wiretapped innocent civilians, used a terrorist attack to force a drastic rewrite of our basic civil rights, shockingly botched the response to a national disaster, etc. etc. etc. And these people weren’t upset about any of that shit, in fact they spent the whole time trying to justify it.

But Obama orders “spicy mustard” and they go on TV, on the radio, on websights, with straight faces, pretending to be intelligent adults, and openly claiming to be upset about it. Pretending to make serious arguments for why it is an actual issue. Adults. Who speak in sentences, and know how to put on their own clothes. They don’t even wear bibs, and they think they can get away with pretending they actually believe dijon mustard proves Obama is an elitist. They say that out loud and then they look at themselves in the mirror and presumably do not hate themselves. Actual human beings, hundreds of them. Can you believe this shit? I can’t. But I didn’t make it up.

Their argument is based on a 25 year old ad campaign for Grey Poupon brand dijon mustard, which showed British guys in limos loaning each other Grey Poupon. So Sean Hannity and other adults pretend to believe that that was a documentary expose about the truth behind who uses spicy mustard.

Hey, you stupid motherfuckers, have you ever noticed that they don’t advertise caviar on TV? You know why? Because TV is for advertising cheap, mass produced products like fucking mustard. Even at the time those commercials existed, when you were still young up-and-coming date rapists aspiring to ruin television, people watched and understood that it was not real, it was a joke about how this cheap ass product at Albertson’s supposedly tastes real fancy like something a cartoon rich person might eat.

You are insulting yourself, your country, and especially the people who listen to you by saying this kind of baby shit out loud. And by the way what is this bullshit where you pretend to speak for the working man? You’re fucking telling me you never had dijon on your burgers back before you ran a media empire? I don’t believe you. You’re a terrible liar. Sorry to break it to you Sean Hannity, but your staff is lying to you if they’re telling you that’s secret rich people mustard.  Normal working class people have been able to afford that shit for decades. It is available in little packets. Hey, what’s this I just found on walmart.com?

mustardI don’t have a TV show, I don’t even own a house or a car, but I prefer spicy mustard on my hot dogs. It costs about the same and can be found in any grocery store or 7-11.  It has a cartoon beaver on the bottle. To be fair I guess he is a pretty classy cartoon beaver though. Probaly well bred.

By the way, am I gonna get in trouble for liking sauerkraut on hot dogs too? Or are you guys just policing burgers? I’m a little concerned because the cartoon pickle on the label wears a crown, that’s pretty elitist.

There’s something else I really wonder about. There are millions of people who watch Fox news and listen to these radio shows and what not. People who really believe this stuff. You cannot tell me that there aren’t at least 500,000 people in this country who both follow Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or some of those guys, and enjoy dijon mustard. How do they feel listening to this? Do they feel ashamed? Do they feel they have to hide their taste in condiments? If past patterns of Republican bigotry have taught us anything it’s that the loudest critics of spicy mustard are the ones secretly enjoying it in airport bathrooms and at rest stops. I bet it is widely known in DC that many Republican senators take their mustard both ways. But nobody’s talking.

Sorry for the tangent, sometimes I gotta vent about these things. But man, can you believe Obama? The Republicans blew it so bad they went from controlling the government, the supreme court and the media to being the guy who shit his pants at the party and nobody will admit they invited him. And still, all Obama has to do to alienate them even further from the mainstream is order a cheeseburger. That’s power.

So, uh, THICK AS THIEVES. The style is not too slick, but not real gritty either. It’s decent but not stand-out filmatism, somewhat typical of a low budget independent like this. And it does feel a little formulaic in its quirk, a little self-conscious in the way all these criminals have a funny little thing they do, like the mafia guy is trying to set up his VCR during an important conversation, or Pointy is eating waffles or whatever. And the way everybody always refers to Mackin as “the thief” when Mackin is a perfectly good name. The tone is nicely balanced though – funny, but not at the expense of the story, not turning it into a comedy. There are some funny lines, and all the actors are good. You can see why this director would want to cast White as a larger-than-life character like Black Dynamite. His voice is so cartoonishly deep, it gives his lines a weird combination of gravitas and comedy.

Also I really like the way the story is resolved. It’s much more novelistic than movie-istic. It’s not some shocking twist or anything, it’s just not how these sorts of movies are supposed to end to be exciting, which makes it perfect. So it’s enjoyable.

Unless you’re a Michael Jai White completist I guess there’s no reason to send out a search party for this one. It’s more like one of those things you would catch on cable sometime for a nice surprise. I hope I didn’t give it away.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

30 Responses to “Thick As Thieves”

  1. […] View original here: Thick As Thieves […]

  2. I was a big Obama supporter until Mustardgate. Now I wouldn’t piss in his mouth if his teeth were on fire.

  3. The mustard bottle does say “RICH with honey.” I don’t know how you get much more arrogant than that…

  4. Condiment’s can tell you a ton about a person. For instance, if you put ketchup on a hot dog you’re a communist. The statistics I just made up don’t lie.

  5. Kramer on Seinfeld prefered dijon as well. He was a man of the people. What an innocuous reason for an outrage.

  6. I live a short walk from Ray’s Hellburger, where Obama and Biden got the burgers, and had just had lunch there like two days before they did. The place was a fucking mob scene already, but ever it got all this media attention now it’s so bad that they have signs up apologizing for how busy it is. The food is amazing but I’m not patient enough to wait in those damn lines, I’ll have to wait until I’m on vacation or something so I can go on a weekday.

    Also, John McCain, Eric Cantor and I think Mitt Romney kicked off that lame-ass “talk to the people” campaign thingy at Pie-Tanza, another joint in Arlington I’ve been to a dozen times, just a week or two before this Obama/Biden burger incident. I don’t recall anyone reporting on what they ate there, although maybe they didn’t have dinner, I dunno. Any way, I keep expecting to walk into the Four Courts or Galaxy Hut or one of the bars I haunt and find Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton or some shit, since it seems like all the 2008 presidential and vice-presidential candidates suddenly like to hang out at my favorite spots.

    This mustard thing just confuses the fuck out of me. In my life, I’ve lived in a small-ish town in Maryland, in an upper-middle class town in Connecticut, at a liberal-ish school in a white trash town in Virginia, and now in Arlington, a town that helped Obama be the first Democrat to win Virginia in a presidential election in a bajillion years. I have family that ranges from left-wing lunatics, to right-wing lunatics, to weird but friendly Utah Mormons. I’d like to think I have connections and relationships with people from a broad cross-section of American life, at least on the east coast. And I have never heard anyone seriously mention this spicy mustard shit in my life. In fact, every where I’ve been, I recall people using spicy mustard. I don’t fucking get it. Who are all these supposed non-elites living in the real America who don’t like spicy mustard on their burgers?

  7. CrustaceanHate

    May 26th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Mustardgate didn’t make it to the news here in Australia as far as I know. That’s pretty hilarious. So, what’s REAL mustard then? Is it that bright yellow stuff that barely has a taste at all? That shit is horrible.

  8. mustard is healthy too, at least as an alternative to mayo.

    i saw black dynamite at sundance and really enjoyed it. i’m not as familiar with blaxploitation and the dolemite films as some people, so i might not have gotten as much out of it. i thought it was fun.

  9. I was pumped for Black Dynamite, but then all the reviews started pumping in saying that the movie was more Austin Powers then Shaft, so my enthusiasm has waned. Still hoping for something worthwhile, but I’m not holding my breathe.

  10. Have you been following the preventive detention policy obama has been promoting vern? Salon has a good article on it:
    http://.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/05/22/preventive_detention/index.html
    As a huge supporter of Obama, and as a human being in general, this scares the shit out of me. I really hope he changes his mind. Never thought i’d see something like this after Bush left office. Maybe hannity was right… maybe the mustard should’ve given it away…

    I wonder how Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are going to handle this? On the one hand, they LOVE when arabs are denied human rights. On the other hand, Obama is the antichrist… so conflicting.

  11. There’s an extra period on that link….. my bad. Cell phone internet browsing… tiny buttons.

  12. I fucking knew it…..
    I have two sorts of mustard in my fridge.
    I belong to the WORLD ELITE!!!

  13. This reminds me of something that happened a few years ago in Germany. Someone found out that the Federal Chancellor was dyeing his hair and he not just used this for a personal attack (like “How can we trust the leader of our country if he is already cheating about the color of his hair?”), it seriously became a huge story for weeks! Newspapers and TV shows (even supposedly serious ones) where questioning his authority because of this!
    Politics. It makes me cry sometimes. (Okay, the Chancellor wasn’t the best one that this country ever had, trying to get him replaced because of his hair? Come on!)

  14. English mustard is the King of mustard. Dijon would be the Pawn or something (in mustard chess).

  15. Thanks for that link, Snow. After we are done fully probing his condiments we should look into that issue.

    I didn’t know about that, that’s terrible. I think he’s getting scared because he’s trying to clean up the Guantanamo mess, and knows what kind of a shit storm it would be if some of those prisoners who were not innocent got off. I have always suspected they were creating terrorists by locking them up like that, and now he has to figure out what to do with those people.

    But during the campaign Obama said many times and in many eloquent ways why America must live up to the ideals it was founded on, even when it’s not the easy thing to do, and he better follow through with that.

  16. One time I was at this restaurant and I stole one of the jars of Grey Poupon they had sitting on the table, and forgot I had it until I was walking down the street later that night and some guy was yelling at some person from his car window, asking if they had any Grey Poupon… so I walked up and handed him that jar, and from his expression it was one of the more profound things to ever happen to him.

  17. You made a good point , Vern. I always try to read foreign press online , to have an “outside of the box” opinion and to analyze an issue in many ways.I’d like to know what people think of Italy , and in particular of Berlusconi , our President , outside of our country.Recently , Berlusconi’s wife said that he is seeing underage girls , and they are divorcing now.He also approved a law , the “Lodo Alfano” , that prevents Berlusconi , and others , to be brought to court while they are in the Government. Is this something that you see happening in your country?

  18. Hi, Scott Sanders here. Thanks for looking up Thick As Thieves. I haven’t seen it in around 5-6 years, so I totally forgot that I wrote that Dijon Mustard part in the script. I think my intention was that Pointy thought it was fancy to put Dijon mustard on his burger, even though obviously it’s not. And then his mother knows he’s prone to trying to be a big shot so she calls him on it.

    It’s pretty hilarious that it’s being mentioned now because of “Obama’s Mustardgate.” I just saw some Dijon in th 99 cent store. That whole controversy makes no sense to me.

    Thanks for the interest in my little forgotten film. Hope you all get a chance to see Black Dynamite on September 4th.

    There’s no mustard in it, though. Dijon or otherwise.

  19. Just so we’re all clear on the matter, Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington (not too far from my house either.. hey Dan, guess we’re neighbors!) is not just a burger shack kinda establishment. It’s pretty unpretentious but owner Michael Landrum is a serious foodie and you can get pretty fancy and slightly pricey burgers there (made with foie gras, bone marrow, truffle oil, etc). So for Obama to just dump a ton of Kroger brand yellow mustard on one of those babies would be pretty retarded, comparable to wearing earplugs to a Mastadon show. It just defeats the point. When Obama hit Ben’s Chili Bowl (in DC http://www.benschilibowl.com/ordereze/default.aspx) he didn’t order any fancy condiment because it would indeed have been ridiculous (let’s not forget that stupid John Kerry incident with the Philly Cheese Steak, which did in fact reveal him to be a huge nerd). So to summerize. Pay for street food from all American slobs, don’t ask for organic shittake mushrooms. Get an immense and lavish burger in a well-regarded restaurant from a gourmet chef, yeah, dress that shit up the way you want it.

    Now, you can mock the concept of fancy burgers, but guess what, those guys on the right wing aren’t doin that. And why not? Because its a locally owned labor of love by an artisan working in a truly American medium and being creative with it. Who’s gonna hate on that?

  20. Everyone stay calm, but I think there may be an elitist in our midst. You distract him, I’ll get the burnin’ stake.

  21. Some of the best Vern ever in this review.

  22. That’s what I figured, it was a home grown “when in town you gotta go to this place” type of burger joint. Not a McDonalds. Which also has dijon mustard.

    Good to hear from Scott Sanders – can’t wait to see BLACK DYNAMITE.

  23. Up here in Canada, our head of state (called the Governor General) just ate a raw seal heart on public television. Mustard’s all you got America?

  24. Yeah, seriously, you could title a movie about a pedophile illiterate Nazi “BLACK DYNAMITE” and I think I’d feel obligated to go see that shit. Bad. Ass.

  25. Subtlety: Rosslyn? Courthouse? Clarendon? Where you at?

  26. Saurkraut + Hot Dogs = heaven

  27. Hahahaha, there is no alternative to Mayo

  28. Great rant Vern. I always enjoy your political screeds any plans to make them a bigger part of the site?

  29. Dan: Alexandria actually, but its a quick drive down 395 to Ray’s. Used to go there pretty often, although now the crowds are ridiculous. If Obama has anything to apologize for, its for getting the place so famous a local can’t hardly get a table anymore. On the other hand, Obama’s pretty much keeping the DC economy going by himself, just by visiting places and selling merch with his name on it. So maybe I shouldn’t complain.

  30. Firstly, agreed with Mustardgate. I remember hearing about that back when it happened; fucking stupid then and now, and sadly we all know that if something remotely like that went down again, those assholes would be all over it (perfect recent example: Obama’s “Hip-Hop BBQ”. . .God, these fuckers are abominable). Anyway.
    JUST saw this flick, much like Vern mentioned, on cable out of nowhere, not expecting much, and I found it to be just an outstanding flick. Like a perfectly unassuming B-movie the way people used to make it, low key yet involving, exciting without being over the top, kept afloat by some great character actors doing their thing. It really did feel like Leonard, and proved that it IS possible to make a killer little crime movie in the wake of Tarantino without being lame. Remember how after Pulp Fiction hit it big suddenly there were all these movies with cops or killers sitting around debating the relative merits of, I don’t know, breakfast cereals or 70’s music before something violent happened? They got the notes right but still managed to fuck up the tune. This is the kind of movie that does it right: even though some of the dialogue may be funny it’s not like these guys are spitting out punchlines. Most of the truly humorous shit comes from character and setting and the ironic dichotomy that comes from that. I realize I’m beginning to sound pretentious so I’ll leave it at that. But I really honestly thought this was a great time with a smokin cast just getting down. Thanks again for telling it like it is, Vern.

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