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The River Thief

The River Thief

Oct. 14, 2016 USA97 Min.
Your rating: 0
8.5 1,791 votes

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Diz (Joel Courtney) is a reckless teenage drifter living life on the run. Abandoned by his parents as a child, he looks out for himself and doesn’t accept handouts. He takes whatever he wants and runs. Jaded and determined to answer to no one, Diz lives a life marked by thievery and abandonment. Things change for Diz when he floats into a small town on the Snake River. There he is confronted by an unflappable old man named Marty and falls for Marty’s guarded granddaughter, Selah. When Diz robs a local drug-dealing crazy, he becomes the owner of a giant pile of cash and the target of two vicious killers. With more money than he knows what to do with, and criminals at his heels, Diz puts the people he’s learned to care about in danger, still trying to win Selah. But some things can’t be stolen or bought. The River Thief is a film about guilt, self-sacrifice, and accepting life as a gift.

The River Thief
Original titleThe River Thief
IMDb Rating5.4 304 votes
TMDb Rating9.3 3 votes

(19) comments

  • amylakebOctober 14, 2016Reply

    Fantastic Family Movie Night Material for teens and up!

    ”The River Thief” has a beautiful message portrayed in a powerful way.
    The first feature film written and directed by bestselling author N.D.
    Wilson, ”The River Thief” is produced with excellence. The
    cinematography is gorgeous. The acting is strong and believable, and
    the characters have a depth that entices one to care about what happens
    to them.

    Parents should know this film could be rated PG-13, as it contains a
    few scenes of graphic violence and some mild profanity. The teens and
    adults in our family give ”The River Thief” two thumbs up, and hope
    N.D. Wilson will create many more films in the future!

  • compmendOctober 14, 2016Reply

    A bit slow, but, a good family movie

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

  • Brian KohlOctober 14, 2016Reply

    gutsy to steer clear of clichés

    All-around fun blend of drama / action / family genres. The most
    rewarding part is that ND Wilson took some gutsy risks with steering
    clear of the clichés for this kind of Christian film. (I can’t say what
    without spoiling.) This gutsy-ness paid off across the board. As such
    the movie feels fresh without trying to be obnoxiously ”original.”
    Acting was solid for the most part. A couple were noticeably amateurs,
    but the headliners were really top class. Cain was especially good, and
    a really great female lead. Script and camera work are really topnotch,
    and Hells Canyon / Snake & Clearwater Rivers are staggeringly

  • Daniel FoucachonOctober 14, 2016Reply

    Great acting, powerful story, and beautifully shot!

    If you’re familiar with N.D. Wilson’s children’s novels, you know
    you’re in for a treat with The River Thief, his first feature film.

    This film breaks from the typical Christian film by telling a good
    story first and foremost. A lost, father-hungry boy discovering true
    love. Not the sappy, romantic love of your typical Hollywood flick
    (this girl wouldn’t have any of that), but rather the kind of love that
    creates a longing to live or die for someone else (something new for

    A wonderful family film, although there are some rough scenes. My
    7-year-old son was spellbound, and somewhat affected by the rough
    parts. Yet this is the kind of story that is healthy. The emotion,
    drama, and violence of this *good* story are like emotional boot camp;
    it allows a young boy or girl to experience these emotions of grief and
    fear along with the positive life lesson that a good story provides.

    As a resident of the Northwest where this was shot, I also appreciated
    the cinematography, which was outstanding! Beautiful aerial views in
    particular. I highly recommend The River Thief!

  • ([email protected])October 14, 2016Reply

    A film’s beauty self-destructs

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

  • bpinkallOctober 15, 2016Reply

    ”Now bend your damned neck.”

    ”The River Thief” is unlike any Christian film I have seen. Most
    Christian films are dishonest, portraying evil in a convenient
    caricature and clothing good in an unsoiled garment with Bible verses
    cross-stitched all over. One usually leaves such movies feeling as
    though he has just witnessed a conflict between angels and demons. But
    the ”The River Thief” is about a conflict between humans.

    Diz (Joel Courtney) is an eminently relatable character, hard on the
    outside but soft on the inside, self-centered but honest. Selah
    (Raleigh Cain) is proof that godly women need not wear halos and glow
    in the dark. The chemistry between the two is palpable and genuine.
    Marty (Tommy Cash) is the soft-spoken but frank grandpa that everyone
    secretly wishes he had.

    The plot is masterful in that it teaches lessons but does so by telling
    a story. There are multiple lessons–lessons on manhood and womanhood,
    fatherhood and childhood, courage and faithfulness, forgiveness and
    thanksgiving. But they are not preached to the audience as to a group
    of eight-year-olds. In fact, they are often left unspoken. The film is
    first and foremost a story. Only the one with eyes to see and ears to
    hear will catch the lessons (along with most of the Bible references).
    Still, the primary message is plain even to the most disinterested of

    The real showcase of the film is the ending. It is unlike any other
    ending to a Christian film I have seen, and it is so very satisfying,
    not because it leaves one with fuzzy feelings inside but precisely
    because it doesn’t. It does what every Christian film ought to do. It
    crucifies you. And when the credits roll one can begin to hear, ever so
    faintly, the echo of an empty grave.

    The film also showcases breathtaking cinematography. The only
    complaints I have is that some of the acting, particularly of the
    extras, is forced and unnatural at times. In two or three places the
    editing is also a bit choppy. Still, the strengths of the film far
    outweigh the weaknesses. It is also worth mentioning that the evil in
    the film is quite graphic at times (guns and blood), so it may not be
    suitable for young audiences, at least not without parental

  • iToldMeSoOctober 18, 2016Reply

    Not perfect, but one of the best in the genre of Christian films

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

  • Robert D. FalconerDecember 5, 2016Reply

    Film Review: The River Thief

    The River Thief is a family movie, especially suited to teenagers and
    young adults, written and produced by N. D. Wilson, most known for his
    young adult fiction and children’s literature. This was his first film.
    Wilson has deep Christian convictions, and this plays out in The River
    Thief. Christian themes are subtle most the way through the movie. With
    that said, one expects a certain kind of film, and it is in light of
    this that the film should be reviewed fairly.

    Very briefly, the film starts off with a series of criminal acts by the
    river thief, Diz, a delinquent adolescent, apparently with a troubled
    past. He finds himself a reluctant friend, Raleigh, and has brief
    interactions with her grandfather, Marty, both of whom challenge the
    thief’s criminal behavior and attitude on life. The main themes of the
    film are the gift of life and forgiveness, not to mention the
    consequences of one’s actions. The consequences of the thief’s actions
    ultimately lead to abduction and death, including in the end his own

    The film is not without weakness. Firstly, I felt the thievery of the
    main character, Diz, in the opening scenes were overdone and could have
    been more subtle, it was also utterly senseless and thus unconvincing.
    Secondly, the characters were somewhat underdeveloped, and the plot
    might have benefited from refinement, that is, it felt ‘clunky’ at
    times. Lastly, I have a problem with Wilson having a kid running about
    with a fire arm. The same can be said of his recent book, Outlaws of
    Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle (which despite this, is a wonderful
    literary work). Perhaps this is an American thing?

    Nevertheless, the film seems to have more strengths than weaknesses.
    Firstly, the setting is an arid landscape and is visually quite
    stunning, together with a small American town and its typical
    architecture. All of this is captured quite beautifully by great
    cinematography. Secondly, the actions in the firm are exaggerated, and
    this becomes rather creative and fun at times. The evil and violence on
    the other hand is subtle which allows for vivid imagination, at least
    until one of the last scenes where murder is openly displayed. And it
    is here where Wilson’s religious narrative finds its strongest
    expression. As one might expect, The River Thief has a moving twist in
    the end, and is ultimately a story of tremendous grace. Further, I
    appreciated the life lessons that punctuated the film, one particular
    saying that stood out to me was, ”Stealing gives you control; gratitude
    gives you freedom”. After watching the film it made me think of John
    Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men, and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

    Most Christian film’s unfortunately ‘milk’ their Christian agendas and
    religious themes. The River Thief avoids this, at least for the most
    part. In my opinion, this makes it one of the best Christian films of
    late, even if I feel The River Thief might have done better. But
    considering that this is a first N. D. Wilson film, with a younger
    audience in mind, and limited resources, it’s a wonderful film, well
    worth a watch!

    Whether we like it or not, Christians do have a grand story to tell,
    the question is how well they tell it!

  • ariaemaherDecember 15, 2016Reply

    Beautiful Action/Adventure Film for Teens and Adults

    I love everything N. D. Wilson. I’ve read all of his fiction books. So
    when I heard he was making a movie, I was (of course) super excited.
    THE RIVER THIEF does not disappoint. With beautiful, sweeping
    cinematography, well crafted and acted characters, and a story that
    packs a powerful punch, there’s nothing more I could ask from N. D.
    Wilson’s screen debut.

    THE RIVER THIEF follows the story of Diz, a homeless, parent-less kid
    who takes what he likes when he wants it. He’s following a river
    through the countryside to find the town where his father is supposed
    to be. He doesn’t know whether he wants to meet his father or kill him,
    but when he crosses paths with a girl named Selah and her grandfather,
    his entire life changes.

    I love how beautifully this film is shot. The sweeping landscape shots
    take my breath away, and the action is tight and controlled. No
    excessive shaky cam here! The acting is also very good. The film is
    actually a bit more mature than I expected. There is a fair amount of
    violence and some cussing, as well as some slight innuendo (a rather
    crazy, protective woman accuses a man of ‘touching her son
    inappropriately’. The man does nothing more than grab the boy by the
    collar, mistaking him for someone else. Also a girl says that she
    ‘can’t be bought and she isn’t a whore’ after a boy gives her a bunch
    of gifts trying to get her attention.)

    The story is very powerful and emotional, and I caught myself getting a
    bit choked up at the end! Overall, I am blown away. A wonderful film
    for teens and adults. 10 out of 10!

  • tcmceDecember 20, 2016Reply

    Interesting Feature Debut

    I found this film because I have enjoyed Wilson’s novels. Each of his
    novels features a full, rich, earthy depiction of some town or place in
    the United States. When I read these books I feel these places and when
    watching this film, I could feel the town, the river, and the regular
    people who lived there.

    The actors were fine, but a couple of performances were weak. Probably,
    the acting was the weakest component of the film.

    The cinematography was a high point. I think this is where that earthy,
    tangible feeling for the river town mostly came from.

    The music was refreshing and accomplished its purpose. I always enjoy a
    movie that departs from the standard orchestral score.

    I thought the writing was mostly good and the dialog felt natural to
    me. The story is a good one and heads to places and touches themes that
    you aren’t expecting and in a way that is touching and quite real to
    me. Some viewers and reviewers may see one character or another as
    unrealistic, but sometimes that’s because you’ve never met someone like
    that. To me, the characters are for real. Most of them could easily be
    someone I know.

    I enjoyed this feature debut from writer/producer N. D. Wilson and I
    find myself looking forward to what he has coming next.

  • dcalmartinDecember 26, 2016Reply

    Unanswered Questions, Lasting Impressions

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

  • Mark RauchJanuary 14, 2017Reply

    Earthy Then Punchy

    The story takes place in an ordinary small town surrounded by
    extraordinary riverside country. The characters are down-to-earth. Some
    may consider the grandpa to be the least realistic, but he actually
    reminded me of someone I know. (Actually, I’ve known a few old people
    throughout my life who knew how to love through their

    But this movie is more than entertainment. Listen to the end and the
    message should be inescapable, even for those who generally turn their
    brains off when staring at a screen.

    Ever look inside an uncovered electrical panel? Looks ho-hum, but dare
    to meddle and – zzzzz-ow!

    I dare you to watch this film.

  • victoria downeyJanuary 17, 2017Reply

    The River Thief

    This film was simple, yet creative, and quite well done. Wilson’s style
    was, as in everything he does, very distinctive and pleasing. I enjoy
    the way he makes each story (whether it be book or film) have an
    individual and interesting cultural setting. The characters were
    properly developed and interesting, especially taking into
    consideration the slightly shorter than average length of the film. The
    twist ending actually surprised me quite a bit and that is impressive,
    as I (apparently wrongly) assumed I was familiar enough with the
    director’s style to not let something like that slip up on me.

    There were a few things that were a bit rough around the edges, but
    overall I was pleased with this film and would likely watch it again.
    There is clearly has a talent for filmography here, and I thoroughly
    enjoyed it. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to quality, Mr.
    Wilson. I hope to see more films of yours in the future.

  • dbh850January 30, 2017Reply


    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

  • Erica KesslerFebruary 10, 2017Reply

    Aesthetically appealing but falls short in areas of plot and characters

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

  • cabsasseFebruary 16, 2017Reply

    Incredible Illustration

    Fantastic story about mercy. There are many examples in this movie of
    the unconditional love God shows us. One thing I love about the movie
    is the fact that the main character is not ”mischievously lovable”. He
    is a stubborn brat who is not really pitiable. The watcher is not
    predisposed to like him in any way. It’s a bit jarring when you realize
    that we are exactly like the river thief: taking what does not belong
    to us, and turning our nose up at any gift. The exact way he resents
    mercy, we do as well. An incredible way to illustrate our brokenness,
    and the unconditional love of Christ.

  • niutta-enricoFebruary 25, 2017Reply

    The River Thief: an entertaining and pleasant film.

    There are some very good artists in this flick. First of all I’d like
    to mention Tommy Cash (the folk singer), here at his first acting
    performance: very intense, completely believable in his key role. A
    great artist.

    Then the beautiful (and gifted singer too) Raleigh Cain, about whom I’m
    certain we will hear more in the future. Then the convincing Bas
    Rutten, Paul Johansson and Joel Courtney, of course.

    An then the talented Author: Nathan D Wilson (Writer, Director and
    Producer) who on a flimsy plot (it could really have been a disaster…)
    built a catching piece made of excellent characters, meaningful words
    and beautiful scenery.

    An entertaining and pleasant film.

  • Peter Pluymers ([email protected])February 26, 2017Reply

    A boy. A river. An adamant girl and her Christian granddad. That’s it!

    ”Some places change things some days, some people… they can put a
    mark on you that won’t ever wash off.”

    ”The river thief” managed to leave me speechless. And this merely by
    the denouement. The run-up was anything but interesting. It shows the
    life of Diz (Joel Courtney) as he leads it now. A carefree existence in
    which he steals anything he deems necessary, without feeling bad about
    it. He has no sense of values. Diz is a street boy whose mother
    abandoned him and left him behind in an alley . And now he’s looking
    for his natural father as he follows the banks of the Snake River. How
    long he has been doing this, isn’t really made clear. And the motive to
    seek his father is also hazy. His vagabond existence is halted when he
    meets Selah (Raleigh Cain). She’s a waitress in a kind of burger joint
    where she gets to know the habits of Diz. Namely not paying for the
    consumed burgers. Selah’s grandfather Marty (Tommy Cash. Yep, brother
    of the famous Johnny Cash) tries to teach the boy some life lessons and
    instead of giving him a scolding, he invites Diz for a steak night.

    Clearly grandfather Marty is a true religious person. Before you know
    it, all sorts of religious philosophies are exposed. About gifts and
    that you shouldn’t take life for granted. And also about those
    priceless things in life such as your heartbeat and your senses. When
    Diz succeeds in stealing a considerable amount of drug money in a very
    simplistic way, this is the beginning of a naive attempt to grow a
    friendship between him and Selah. One thing struck me. How the
    egocentric Diz undergoes a metamorphosis in such a short time. From one
    moment to the next he changes from being an indifferent person into
    someone who appreciates values ​​such as forgiveness and repentance.
    Probably for the first time in his life he’s facing a sense of guilt.
    He tries to apologize by flooding Selah with expensive gifts, which in
    turn creates a twofold problem. On the one hand, Selah doesn’t want
    this and she makes this absolutely clear. Secondly, the criminals could
    easily trace Diz because of this outrageous behavior. As a result Marty
    and Selah are also placed in a vulnerable position.

    Despite the limited budget, ”The river thief” is blessed (sorry) with
    some brilliant impressions of the winding Snake River and other static
    nature scenes. In short, when looking at the technical side, it all
    looks professional enough. In terms of acting, it wasn’t too bad. Joel
    Courtney acts natural and convinces as the casual and spry Diz. Raleigh
    Cain is as passionate in her acting as Selah is in person, but
    sometimes it felt rather drab. And Tommy Cash is the oracle of the
    film. Nothing more nothing less. These are certainly not top
    performances, but they are at least better than those of the two
    gangsters Saul (Paul Johansson) and Clyde (Bas Rutten). And I don’t
    blame the actors themselves, but rather the script. It portrays these
    two figures in a fairly implausible and dumb way.

    Unfortunately, the content of this film is similar to the way in which
    the Snake River runs. Slowly it proceeds without any significant,
    exciting or tense moment. I read some articles where they labeled this
    as a ”Christian movie”. Well for me it didn’t feel like a Christian
    movie at all. Besides, each film can be interpreted in such a way that
    people say there’s some kind of religious message hiding in it. Marty
    being a moralist, who tries to learn Diz certain life values, doesn’t
    make this a Christian movie suddenly. But I can tell you without
    hesitation, the surprising denouement totally blew me away. Not because
    of its violent nature, but mainly because I didn’t see this one coming.
    So, although there are a few bombastic topics about gratitude,
    forgiveness and self-sacrifice, it all felt rather contrived and banal
    to me. And even if there would be a deeper meaning hiding somewhere in
    this film, I guess it completely eluded me. Most likely there’ll be
    some philosophizing about this movie in theological circles.
    Unfortunately my intelligence falls short when talking about
    spirituality. Thank God.

    More reviews here :

  • jacobFebruary 28, 2017Reply


    I sorta hate most movies now days. But Jesus Christ, The River Thief
    sucks. Why doesn’t anyone even try to make good movies anymore? I
    watched the Oscars last night and kinda just wanted to beat up all
    those talent-less dickholes. Hero-worship stupidity at its best.
    Anyways, this movie sucked for a lot of reasons, but mostly I hate
    everything about the film industry.

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