Pop Culture Gadabout
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
      ( 4/12/2006 10:10:00 AM ) Bill S.  

THE EVIL GUYS DO – Haven't seen a lotta bloggish writing yet about Thief, the Andre Braugher crime series that's recently slipped into fx's Grimly Edgy Tuesday Nite timeslot, and I think I know why. The series – much like HBO's criminally underappreciated The Wire – is not an easy entry show. It has an abundance of subplots that you know will eventually connect even if they presently act like schoolkids engaging in parallel play. Three eps in, and we're only getting an inkling as to how Michael Rooker's loose-cannon N'Orleans cop will insert himself into the messed-up lives of Braugher's not-so-merry band of professional crooks.

Still, the core of the series, the rocky relationship between Braugher's recently widowed Nick and his sullen stepdaughter Tammi (Mae Whitten), is entertainingly and believably handled. Unlike the parent-child relationships in nip/tuck, say, you can see the levels of power between these two strong-willed character shift the longer they talk to each other. Some fine acting by Braugher in those moments (which didn't surprise me) and young Whitten, too (which did).

Despite this chewy family center, Thief remains a story about guys doing dark deeds. The only grown woman to appear in the first two episodes was Linda Hamilton's no-nonsense fence – and she didn't make it into Episode Three. And though part of its story is devoted to the planning of a Big Score, the series is by no means a cuddly caper escapade. In the first hour, Nick shoots a drugged-out screw-up, an act that's as character defining and as long-reaching as Vic Mackey's murder of an undercover cop. When the rest of his team realize that Tammi may've witnessed this act, they begin wondering if they need to something about her. These are not nice guys.

They're pussycats, though, compared to the men pursuing 'em: not just Rooker's ultra-violent cop but a professional hit man from the Chinese mafia, who thinks nothing of tying a string of fireworks to a trussed-up victim. Will our protagonist will be able to pull off an elaborate and hastily constructed air-borne heist before the mob finds him and his daughter? Aw, you already know Nick and company are doomed to meet up with Unavoidable Fate in the last two eps of the season, right?

Not the most solid of fx's grown-up teledramas (that honor, after the last two strongly acted seasons, has to go to The Shield), but a worthy addition to the fx lineup, nonetheless . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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