Take a risk. Make a mistake. Save your own skin. What’s the worse that could happen? “Among Thieves” (Oscar Daniels, 2004) suggests not much and a lot can happen. Travelle (Rashawn Underdue) and Davante (Ransford Doherty) commit armed robbery. It doesn’t go down right, gunfire is exchanged, and their getaway driver bails on them. Davante’s leg is injured and when police sirens can be heard, Travelle leaves him against a fence and flees into the surrounding residential neighborhood. He comes upon a house and slips inside through a window. Gun drawn, Travelle explores the house and finds its occupants: a young woman (Franceska Lynne) trying to get a bed-ridden old woman (Jeanne Mount) to swallow medicine. The woman flees to the kitchen where Travelle quickly follows and briefly fights with her. He ties her up for a spell and searches the house for something to steal. Over the next twenty minutes, the home invader is tamed by Miss Ginny, who is lying on her deathbed. They share stories about their lives and in exchange for telling Travelle where a locked box is, he must kill her.
In a finite stretch of time, Daniels must do more than set up a scenario and run a little conflict and tension. Yes, Travelle leaves his partner bleeding on the street, trespasses onto private property, and thinks he is in a position to end Miss Ginny’s suffering. We would be convinced and even think that the least he could do is to put the old woman out of her cancerous misery, but “Among Thieves” doesn’t afford us that opportunity because it doesn’t create a situation compelling us to believe these characters were fated to cross paths. Picking realism over idealism backfires as Travelle, Davante, the caretaker, and Miss Ginny impress you as people whose lives intersect due to rotten coincidence rather than to divine providence…because in real life it must happen all the time. People are at the wrong place at the wrong moment. In film, though, even misfortune should come off as befalling the characters with purpose. Good actions lead to good karma and likewise bad behavior incurs bad karma. “Among Thieves” fails in this respect.
Commit a crime. Forget a backup escape plan. Think only of yourself. What’s the worse that would happen? If you’re in Travelle’s shoes, a little and a lot. With no idealistic design, everything is a series of cause and effect. “Among Thieves” ends and you haven’t a modicum of sympathy for the burglar who is supposed to have a heart.