Thinner (1996) review

Thinner posterDirector: Tom Holland

Starring: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Michael Constantine, Kari Wuhrer, Lucinda Jenney

“Justice ain’t about bringing back the dead, white man. Justice is about justice. Your friend the policeman, your friend the judge, they make sure nothing happen to you. They keep you safe. But I make sure something happen to them. That justice, white man. Gypsy justice.” (Tadzu Lempke, Thinner)

Here’s a hell of a fact. At the time of writing, there have been a total of 81 films or TV shows based on one of Stephen King’s novels or short stories.

Some are fantastic (The Shining, Pet Sematary, Carrie). Others are The Lawnmower Man.

And then there’s Thinner, which lies somewhere in between. It’s never gone down as a classic Stephen King adaptation, and rightly so, but that doesn’t mean it’s a massive stinker either.

It tells the story of Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke, aka Mickey Gavin from Rescue Me), a big fat lawyer prick who lives in Maine with his wife and daughter. I’m not pointing out his weight just to be rude, you understand: it’s a major plot point.

Simon was delighted. That selfie stick he'd just bought would finally let him see what his penis looked like
Simon was delighted. That selfie stick he’d just bought would finally let him see what his penis looked like

Billy’s wife is worried about his health and keeps trying to convince him to go on a diet. He’s not having any of it though: he’s too busy defending crime bosses and helping them get off scot free to worry about not jamming pastries into his bottomless wordhole.

For some reason, even though he’s an almighty dick and his job revolves around making guilty people innocent, Billy’s wife still can’t resist giving him the odd ‘oral’ incentive in the car every now and then. If you catch my drift. Which is her putting his willy in her mouth.

Surprisingly, it turns out getting a blowjob from your wife while driving is actually quite dangerous, as Billy finds out when he accidentally hits an old Gypsy woman (the film’s term, not mine, PC brigade) who walks out onto the road.

Looks like she got creamed by his car. GYPSY CREAM. Little Wee biscuit joke for the Brits there
Looks like she got creamed by his car. GYPSY CREAM. Wee biscuit joke for the Brits there

Refusing to accept the accident was his fault, Billy is conveniently cleared of charges by his buddies at the court (actual dialogue: “Oh, what the hell, the old lady was jaywalking”).

This decision doesn’t please the rest of the Gypises in town, including the dead woman’s 106-year-old father. Funny, that.

He finds Billy and puts a Gypsy curse on him. Touching his face, he simply says the word “thinner” then leaves.

The next day, Billy discovers he’s lost a couple of pounds. It happens again the next day, then the next, and gets to the stage that he’s losing around 20 lbs a week.

Bob's commitment to his Predator cosplay was getting a little extreme
Bob’s commitment to his Predator cosplay was getting a little extreme

At first he’s delighted with the weight loss and tries to take credit for it. He’s stuffing his face even more than before though, so it soon becomes clear something funny’s going on.

If this is indeed a curse, then how far will it go? Will Billy continue to lose weight at this rate until he becomes so emaciated that he’ll die? Can he end the curse before it’s too late?

Or will he just call on the mobster boss he recently defended at court (Joe Mantegna, aka the voice of Fat Tony in The Simpsons) and get him to head over to the Gypsy camp with a machine gun to fuck them all up?

Guess which he chooses.

Clue: this is how happy it makes the Gypsies
Clue: This is how happy it makes the Gypsies

I like Thinner‘s premise and for the most part the film carries King’s story off well, with Tom Holland’s (Child’s Play) direction keeping things running relatively smoothly.

The special effects are more of a mixed bunch. For the first half of the film Burke is made to wear a series of progressively less extreme fat suits, but at no point do they ever look convincing enough to be anything other than dodgy prosthetics.

Surpsingly though, as he continues to lose weight and starts looking emaciated, the make-up actually starts to look more effective.

This confuses me. You’d think it’d be easier to make someone look fat than it would be to make them look dangerously thin – it must be a simpler task to add shit to someone’s face rather than take it away – but what do I know.

"Here's a lesson for you, my boy: never be curious to find out what a table saw smells like"
“Here’s a lesson for you, my boy: never be curious to find out what a table saw smells like”

Thinner also suffers from the same problems encountered by another film I recently reviewed, Creep: its ‘hero’ is a dick.

In fact, there isn’t a single prominent character in this film who’s likeable in any way. Billy killed an old woman with his car and won’t accept the guilt, that’s for starters.

But his police pal and the judge helped him get away with it, not even going ahead with a breathalyser test.

The Gypsies obviously suffered a tragic loss, but they then placed a fatal curse on Billy – and the judge and the cop, incidentally – obviously not adhering to the old legend that two wrongs (or four in this case) don’t make a right.

Even the hot Gypsy's got a 'tude on her. Charming
Even the hot Gypsy’s got a ‘tude on her. Charming

Billy’s wife isn’t an innocent party here either – she’s cheating on him – so who in the realm of fuck are we supposed to side with here? His daughter Susie Two-Scenes?

Right up to literally the final shot in the movie, Billy refuses to show any sign of turning over a new leaf and seeing the error of his ways.

Because of this, what we have is a film that, intriguing as the story may be, is ultimately about a conflict between pricks and pricks. And when that’s what’s on offer, it’s hard to care about either.


Thinner is available on DVD in the UK and on DVD and Blu-ray in the US. At the time of writing it can only be streamed on NowTV, which also means anyone with Sky Movies can access it on demand. Alternatively, buy the Stephen King novel instead: it’s got a better ending, for starters.


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