Marc D. Allan

Clifton Collins Jr., Andre Braugher and Malik Yoba star in 'Heist.'

"Everybody steals," Andre Braugher says in the new FX series Thief. "Biggest thieves in the country got their names on Fortune 500 companies - Enron, Worldcom. No such thing as a straight life."

Those three lines might explain why we're about to see two new series centered around the criminal element. Thief (10 p.m. Tuesdays beginning March 28, FX) is staggeringly good in every respect; Heist (10 p.m. Wednesdays beginning today, WTHR-13) is shockingly derivative but so briskly paced and absorbing that you can almost forgive its faults.

Thief, a gritty, six-episode series, stars Braugher as Nick Atwater, the New Orleans-based leader of a gang that carries out complex crimes. When we meet them, they're underground in San Francisco, breaking into a bank vault to steal diamonds. When they also decide to help themselves to bundles of cash, they set off a chain of events that sets an assassin on their trail.

Ultimately, Nick and company are after much bigger fish - a $40 million payday. But while they're about to go after that, they also have family to contend with. In the first episode, Nick must deal with the loss of a loved one, which makes his work life that much more complicated, and fellow thief Elmo (Malik Yoba) has to decide whether to continue on or go home and see his newborn son.

Braugher is excellent, as always, as he takes his character through a world of emotions, all convincingly. His surrounding cast is equally as good, particularly Yoba, Yancey Arias (the suave, seemingly unflappable Gabo), Clifton Collins Jr. (the emotionally wrecked Jack) and Michael Rooker as corrupt detective John Hayes.

There's much more to learn about Thief, but all you need to know is that the longer you watch, the more engrossing and surprising it becomes.

As for Heist, the best summation comes when the always funny Billy Gardell says to his new detective partner, played by Reno Wilson, "This is just like Lethal Weapon, except I actually do hate you." Heist is like Lethal Weapon. It's also like Pulp Fiction, Oceans Eleven and Twelve, Reservoir Dogs and several other movies.

That doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, it's surprisingly breezy and funny. The 13-week series follows a disparate group of criminals who plan to rob three Beverly Hills jewelry stores during Oscar week, when they'll have their most expensive pieces in the store.

But that's going to take planning and practice, so in tonight's premiere, we see the thieves carry out an intricate bank robbery, as well as a few smaller but equally well-planned jobs.

Like Thief, Heist also tells personal stories about its criminals - like Pops (Seymour Cassel) has a wife suffering from Alzheimer's disease and, for some reason, Mickey's daughter thinks she's dead. Unlike Thief, you'll feel like you've seen all this before.


Recommended for you