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Thinner (1996, Robert John Burke, Michael Constantine)

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Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) is a lawyer noted as much for his obesity as his advocacy. Driving home one night he is involved in a road accident that results in the death of a gypsy woman. Halleck’s connections in local law enforcement help him persuade Judge Rossington (John Horton) and Police Chief Hopley (Daniel von Bargen) to help cover up the incident.

Later, the gypsy chief (Michael Constantine) meets Billy and curses him with a single word: ‘Thinner’. From that moment, Halleck begins to lose weight. His co-conspirators also suffer inexplicable symptoms, and both are soon dead.

Initially happy with his crash diet, the lawyer eventually grows concerned when the weight loss shows no sign of stopping. Guessing a connection with the gypsy’s vengeance, he enlists the help of Richie Ginelli (Joe Mantegna), a Mafioso indebted to Halleck for evading jail. The payback plot begins…

Making the most of his genre talents (Child’s Play, Fright Night), Tom Holland’s adaptation of King’s tale contains the author’s obligatory sense of menace and an anti-hero incredulous about the motives for his deserved decline.

Shooting the film in continuity (a rarity), Burke – who weighed only half of the desired 300lbs – had to undergo exhaustive prosthetic make-up daily, and ensure his character’s predicament was still credible.

It’s a considerable achievement, tempered only by the knowledge that years earlier King made a prescient – and futile – attempt to press gang John Candy into taking the lead role because ‘it might just save his life.’

production details
USA | 92 minutes | 1996

Director: Tom Holland
Writers: Tom Holland, Michael McDowell (from the novel by Stephen King)

cast
Robert John Burke as Billy Halleck
Lucinda Jenney as Heidi Halleck
Bethany Joy Lenz as Linda Halleck
Joe Mantegna as Richie Ginelli
Michael Constantine as Tadzu Lempke
Kari Wuhrer as Gina Lempke
Daniel von Bargen as Chief Duncan Hopley
Stephen King as Pharmacist
Ed Wheeler as Detective Deevers
Walter Bobbie as Kirk Penschley
Time Winters as Prosecutor
Howard Erskine as Judge Phillips
Randy Jurgensen as Court Clerk
Josh Holland as Frank Spurton
Peter Maloney as Biff Quigley
Josh Lucas as Male Nurse