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Thieves Review

August 7, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
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Thieves Review  

Thieves Review

Dakota Kennedy– Johnny Clay
Eric Menyuk– Cohen
James MacEwan– Agent Ellis
Olivia Lemmon– Lily Collins
Chris Fuentes– Jackson Davis
Luciana Vara– Nikita
Jacqi Vene– Agent Rowe
Johnjay Fitih– Captain Tanner

(check out the rest of the cast here

Directed by Bryan C. Winn
Screenplay by Bryan C. Winn

Produced by Tech Noir Productions

Runtime– 80 minutes


Thieves, written and directed by Bryan C. Winn, is a low budget, modern day crime thriller centering on a racetrack heist in downtown Los Angeles. Coming in at a lean and mean 80 minutes and in black and white, Thieves isn’t anything particularly original, but it is an entertaining ride into the dark underbelly of Los Angeles crime.

Thieves features an ensemble cast headed up by Dakota Kennedy, who plays Johnny Clay, a badass professional thief who takes a job with notorious local crime boss Cohen (Eric Menyuk) to steal a shitload of money from the Santa Anita racetrack. With the help of professional thug Jackson Davis (Chris Fuentes), Johnny’s plan is to hit the racetrack with machine guns and gas masks. Johnny really doesn’t want to kill anyone, but he knows that, based on the amount of money he’s going to steal and the nature of the job, he and his help have to be ready for any eventuality. Odds are good that things are going to get nasty.

While all of that is going on, there’s also an FBI agent, Dan Ellis (James MacEwan), who is breaking in a new undercover agent (Samantha Rowe, as played by Jacqi Vene) and trying to find a way to pay back the massive debt he apparently owes to a guy named Chen Liu (Victor Chen). Ellis is also in cahoots with Lily Collings (Olivia Lemmon), the hot babe girlfriend of crime boss Cohen. Collings acts as a sort of informant for Ellis, as Ellis wants to know what the heck is going on in Los Angeles in terms of Cohen’s business, not to mention Cohen’s boss the Rabbi (Joel Aaronson).

And on top of all of that, there’s a professional assassin running around (Nikita, as played by Luciana Vara), and there’s a guy who knows everything there is to know about bombs and whatnot (Uncle Money, as played by Rocco Bovo) who figures into the big scheme of things. There’s also a guy named Ray Stavers (played by P.J. King), but, truthfully, I don’t remember what the hell it is he did in the movie.

I don’t want to say any more about the movie’s plot as the story has some nice twists and turns, some of which you won’t see coming. The last fifteen minutes, where everything comes together, is excellent and well-staged. There isn’t much in the way of big deal action on display, but the gun battle bits we do get are superb for such a small movie. There’s also a pretty nifty fight at the end, too.

The movie’s use of black and white cinematography is cool because, really, it’s something you don’t see all that much in modern day movie making. The black and white also helps make the movie moodier than it likely would have been in color. The only issue I have with the use of black and white is it makes the movie’s three main women look exactly the same. They each have long, dark hair and have a pale complexion. If you’re not paying super attention you’re going to get confused about what’s happening and who it’s happening to. It happened to me, and I thought I was on top of the story.

The very beginning of the movie is also a tad confusing. I understand what the movie is trying to do by starting off with Johnny in an elevator with his machine gun and gas mask and ready to spring into action (it starts the movie of with a jolt and builds suspense because you don’t really know what’s happening), but I’m not sure the movie needs its second opening scene, where we see Johnny on the phone with someone who is super pissed off with him. The second opening scene doesn’t kill the movie or anything, but why not just use the opening elevator sequence to get the movie rolling and then get into the main story? Again, the second scene doesn’t really hamper the movie, but it is something that’s bothered me since watching it.

The cast is generally phenomenal. Dakota Kennedy is great as the lead character Johnny Clay. Kennedy plays Clay as a quiet professional, a guy who just wants to do his job and move on. He’s exactly the kind of guy you want on your side when you need someone to rob a race track (or a bank or whatever). And James MacEwan does a great job as the somewhat sleazy FBI agent Dan Ellis. MacEwan isn’t as sleazy as Eric Menyuk’s mob boss Cohen. You just take one look at him and you know he’s just awful. And if and when there’s ever a sequel to Thieves, I think it would be interesting to see what Luciana Vara’s professional assassin character Nikita does, in general. I know I wouldn’t mind seeing a classy, low budget black and white assassin movie. When was the last time the world had one of those?

The movie’s score, by Otto Nilson, is very cool, too. It doesn’t overwhelm the movie at all and is a joy to listen to.

Thieves is a must see flick for crime movie aficionados. It isn’t perfect, but it is a great watch regardless. Be sure to check it out when it releases wide. Crime movie nerds will love it.

See Thieves. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Around 9.

Explosions: One, and it’s not bad.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A horse racing track, off screen machine gun fire, multiple instances of stock footage of Los Angeles, an electronic gizmo, safe hooey, some awkward walking, handgun hooey, rock to the face, momentary bondage, slow motion dead body carrying, gambling talk, a pretty vicious series of threats, an interrogation, a guy that sort of looks like Kid Rock, guns, sniper hooey, off screen poolside sex, a depressing life story, communal smoking, elevator hooey, gas mask hooey, a tear gas canister, machine gun hooey, guard killing, money stealing, exploding car, more sniper hooey, a hotel room shootout, a foot chase, a beach flashback, wedding ring throwing, multiple double crosses, and a nifty ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: An overhead shot of Los Angeles, people meeting in a Chinese restaurant, a fast moving car driving montage, beating in a public parking garage that leads to death via guy being thrown to the ground, a “No Peds on Ramp” sign, Bob’s Big Boy, hamburger eating, UPS truck, a Steve McQueen movie on TV, a Los Angeles location that looks very, very familiar, and a nifty ending.

Best lines: “Where are you? You are so dead, motherfucker,” “Fuck this, just give me the money,” “Don’t waste my time, asshole,” “You think you can steal our shit and get away with it?,” “Welcome to the party, pal,” “You don’t have any moves left, pal,” “I won’t let you down, Captain,” “So you’re the guy who think it’s okay to steal from me?,” “What’s going on up here? None of your fucking business,” “Everybody does their job, everybody gets what they need,” “Are all these clean?,” “I’ll do it, Johnny, just because I like you,” “You’re sorry, I’m sorry, everybody’s sorry,” “So you want to tell me about Special Agent Willis?,” “Don’t you think we’re going in a little hard on this?,” “Here’s the thing, if you fuck this up it’s your ass, not mine,” “Men just take to me,” “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it my way,” “Ah, fuck! They got an APB on us!,” “You set us up, motherfucker,” “Stay out of the milk. I don’t want you drinking out of the carton,” and “You shouldn’t have come for me.”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Thieves is writer/director Bryan C. Winn’s first feature film, and it’s damn good. Sure, it has a few issues, but it’s got a great cast, a good story, and doesn’t waste time. It’s also in black and white. How often do we see that kind of thing in modern cinema? When Thieves gets released, be sure to track it down and check it out. It’s well worth your time. Thieves is awesome. See it!

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Thieves, Bryan Kristopowitz