It’s entirely fitting that “The River Thief” is an unabashedly faith-based drama — it would take a considerable leap of faith to find many redemptive qualities in this hackneyed, heavy-handed first feature written and directed by YA author N.D. Wilson.
Meet Diz (Joel Courtney), a resentful young teen thief who, although steadfastly refusing to accept handouts, has been stealing his way through the Pacific Northwest towns dotting the Snake River.
But when he hits the mother lode, ripping off a cool million from a crazed drug lord (mixed martial artist Bas Rutten), he finds himself dodging both vengeful cartel types and a dirty cop (Paul Johansson), before finding refuge in the benevolent home of a Bible-quoting, guitar-strumming old man named Marty (Tommy Cash, younger brother of the late Johnny Cash).
Turns out Marty has a granddaughter (Raleigh Cane) to whom the socially awkward Diz takes a shining, revealing to her that his caustic view of the world might have something to do with the fact he was abandoned at birth by a mother who had unsuccessfully attempted to abort him.
Chockful of hoary archetypes making hokey observations (“Just another boy that needs a father”), leading to a truly laughable big-ending reveal, the film, with its wildly uneven performances, underscores the pitfalls inherent in shifting from the written page to the big screen.
As Stephen King once testified, “Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.”
It’s a contrast “The River Thief” consistently fails to discern.
‘The River Thief’
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge at the Montalban Theatre, Hollywood