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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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The thief is a modern film noir. James Caan gives his most powerful performance to date. Cool, analytical with a hard debt that it must be paid.
There is a film that I still remind very close related, titled Point Blank and directed by John Boorman. The starring in that film was the hard Lee Marvin. I have the inner conviction that Thief was inspired by that one. Please acquire both of two. I have them in my personal collection.
This is the opera prima of Michael Mann as director. Well effort and amazing script.
One of the top ten cult movies from the eighties.
A must in your collection!.
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on March 2, 2004
I seen this movie when it was 1st released in the theatre,
and i like it, and also the style of filing, and storey line.
filmed in chicago, this movie gives ya a world wind tour of
the area with land marks....the elevated train tracks,
the bridges, chocago police interview techniques, pay off's, the mob, double cross's, the love connection.
jame caan was around 42 at the time of the movie and probably
at the zenith of his looks and ability's.
tuesday weld, was around 38 and!!!!
james belushi, was in his late 20's and starting his film career
based on his own talents.
dennis farina, the ex chicago cop, i believe this may have been his 1st film as well, we see him prior to his tv show
crime storey when his hair was still dark.
the bad guy mob boss- robert prosky, although older than james caan, later played the 2nd lead sgt on hill street blues.
unlike the new york mob, chicago's " outfit" always had a different flair to it.
willie nelson, shows up in the film as a aging- death bed convict also., this film , with a lot of footage filmed at night, y takes us in the world of the professional thief, on the prowl, one of the better crime movies to come out of the 80s'
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I first saw this film soon after it was released, having no idea what to expect except that it was filmed in my home town (Chicago) and that it starred James Caan whose work I had admired so much in The Godfather. I neither knew nor cared who directed it (Michael Mann) and had no idea which group provided the musical soundtrack (Tangerine Cream). Wow! I enjoyed Thief so much I returned to see it again the next evening, dragging along some friends who knew even less about it than I did only 24 hours before. In my opinion, this is Caan's finest performance as Frank, a middle-aged jewel thief who is obviously determined to make a long-cherished dream come true: Retire from his criminal life, marry, start a family, and live happily ever after. He carries a photo collage in his wallet as a daily reminder of that dream. He shares it only with Jessie (Tuesday Weld) because she is the only person with whom he wants to share his life. Meanwhile, Frank has established contact with Leo (Robert Prosky) who seems to take a paternal interest in Frank but only to gain his trust so that Frank will agree to an assignment for the mob. Of course, Leo has no intention of allowing him to retire. Once involved with the mob, Frank will have no way out except death. After he and Jessie marry and move into a lovely home, they are frustrated in their attempts to adopt a child so Leo provides one ("Boy or girl? Whatever you want.") and much of Frank's dream has come true. One last lucrative theft and....
Under Mann's direction, all of the performances are outstanding. I was especially interested in the care with which the major theft is planned and then executed. When Frank then realizes that he cannot free himself from the mob, he reacts with prudence (to protect his wife and child) and then with rage and vengeance. The soundtrack and cinematography are brilliantly integrated within the narrative. The editing by Mann and Dov Hoenig is lean and sharply-focused. When I saw Thief again recently, it had lost none of its dramatic impact; moreover, I recognized this time around certain nuances of character and plot development which I had missed before. I include it on my list of great films which have never been fully appreciated, probably because -- until the VHS and CD versions -- so few people had been able to see it. No excuses now.
The DVD version includes a commentary by Mann and Caan, deleted scenes, and footage not shown in theaters. I also strongly recommend the CD of the Tangerine Cream soundtrack which evokes so many memorable images from the film but, for those who have not as yet seen it, one which offers great listening in its own right.
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on August 13, 2003
Not only one of the best film noirs of the 1980's, it's one of the best of the genre, period.
James Caan co-produced. It's easily his best work.
His character is complicated but his code is simple. If you've got nothing to lose, then you can fight and survive because you won't give a damn whether you live or die.
He's a professional safe cracker who has spent most of his life in jail, who is now out on the street, making halfhearted efforts to get away from his past.
After all, he hasn't much of a life. He slugs his way through the day as a used car salesman. A job which doesn't exactly fill him with joy. He cares for only two human beings in the world: A father figure he idolizes, who taught him the mastery of his 'trade', who is still behind bars--and has just been told by the doctor he has only a few months to live.
The second is a waitress who has also been around the block and roughed up by life. The combination of sexual attraction, past dissappointments, and the desperate need to hope bring them together.
(These supporting leads are brilliantly cast: Willie Nelson as the 'Father' and Tuesday Weld as the waitress. They really deliver the goods.)
And now comes the plot twist: The promise of a huge and final score put together by a mobster becomes Caan's shot at The American Dream: A new life, a wife, a house, and---courtesy of the mobster--an adopted child.
The family and life he always wanted.
One small problem. Though Caan makes it clear from the start that this is his last heist, the mobster wants him for the long haul.
Come payday, he shorts him, but promises him better and better deals to come. It's time to join the corporation. Now that he's 'family' and can no longer maintain the 'I've got nothing to lose attitude.' The mobster knows--or thinks--he's got him. Time for Caan to compromise, join the corporation and play ball, just like everybody else in this world.
Comparisons are supposed to be facile or somehow in poor taste.
Too bad. To name just two 'masterpieces', "Thief" is far superior to "Heat" or "Reservoir Dogs", And rightly deserves the recognition it's finally getting.
Great film, Great script, Great direction and Great acting.
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on January 12, 2002
In his finest role to date, veteran actor James Caan plays Frank, an ultra-cool, independent jewel thief with some very definite plans. Frank reluctantly gets involved with a mobster who changes all those plans. Frank is "Joe the boss of my own Universe" as he tells Leo (Robert Prosky)upon their first meeting. Unfortunately for Frank, he'll soon find that Leo has become the boss of his universe once he agrees to "freelance" for him. To get free, Frank has to dismantle the picture perfect life he tried to assemble, and start over again. ................ This film has a wonderful noir mood with all the atmospheric rain soaked Chicago streets, earthy dialogue and colorful characters. These come in the form of crooked DTs and mobster henchmen to name a few, peppering the screen with non-stop action. These characters feel very real, and keep you riveted throughout. ............ Director Michael Mann, who also created "Heat" and "Man Hunter" as well as the "Miami Vice" TV classic of the 80s, did some of his best work in this film. The soundtrack from "Tangerine Dream" is no less than outstanding. The entire score really enhances every scene. I especially love the wonderfully sensual sounding lead guitars during the exciting culmination of the story when Frank faces Leo solo to take back his independence. .......... Willie Nelson as David Okla, master thief that taught Frank his craft, and Dennis Farina in his big screen debut (with BLACK hair!) as one of Leos henchmen are two of many interesting faces and characters along the way. .............. Since this is one of my favorite films, I can truly say, if you have never seen "Thief"... you've been robbed of a truly great film viewing experience.
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on January 12, 2002
The heist-plot of 'Thief' is old hat - a master-criminal who wants to settle down with his family does one last job to ensure their future security; the police butt in and there is the usual spiralling of violence involving comrades and betrayal, as well as the meticulous focus on the mechanics of the heist. Even the film's poltical insight - the crooks are blue-collar workers, whose thieving is 'honest' labour involving sweat and technical skill; the bribable police are brutal parasites; the new crime cartels are monopolies swallowing up 'the little man' - is taken from that pioneering heist movie 'Rififi', although it is given a particularly 80s inflection here, with the ugly urban spaces already, in 1981, bearing the scars of Reaganite depletion.
What is unique in 'Thief' is debut director Michael Mann's style. 'Thief' opens with a virtually wordless sequence as James Caan, a thoroughly professional craftsman, does his job with the tools of his trade, which happens to be the dismantling of a safe. Unlike many heist movies, which use the set-up of collaborative, against-the-clock crime, financed by shady businessmen as a metaphor for the film-making process, 'Thief' as a film can be more profitably compared to the object of Caan's criminality. 'Thief' gleams with a hard, gem-like brilliance, as Mann uses neon light, reflecting and liquid surfaces, geometric shapes, stylised movements and lean visual rhythms to transform the raw materials of crime, violence and city spaces into something shiny and beautiful.
'Thief' tries to contrast the 'formalism' of crime, its methodology and style, where Caan channels his aggression into professional control, with the messiness of the human-interest story, where he is emotionally vulnerable; but Mann seems much more interested in the former, with lumbering dialogue and dragging pace hobbling the latter. In the crucial scene in which Caan admits to his fiancee his criminal present, prison past and dreams for the future, Mann seems more fascinated by the illuminated symmetry of the motorway outside. The patient heist sequences, in which the crooks work like factory welders, are much more successful in revealing character. The astonishing, ritualistic climax, in which Caan is transformed into a kind of Terminator lost in the finale of '2001', has not yet been equalled by Mann.
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on May 17, 2001
First, the DVD is not top-notch. Some ghosting in the picture etc. Hope for a better edition some day. What IS topnotch on the DVD is the Commentary by Michael Mann and James Caan. We learn that they immersed themselves in the world of "master" jewel thieves and cops and that many of the capers shown were based on real jobs these guys did. All of the background they discuss lets you know why Thief looks and feels so authentic. AND it's very funny as well.
Michael Mann's first film is stylish, slick, and as noted above, gritty and authentic. Caan is terrific and is ably supported by Tuesday Weld, Jim Belushi, and Robert Prosky, and a terrific cameo by Willy Nelson.
A master thief, raised and "educated" in state institutions and prisons, Caan is a man who has "run out of time". He learned to survive in prison by not caring about himself or anyone (which we learn in a great scene with Tuesday Weld), he was taught by a master thief (Nelson) and he has a dream he created that he is trying to fulfill. His dream is the adolescent dream of the family and house with a white picket fence, imagined in prison, and now trying to be made real in the world.
Caan is a lone wolf, working his own jobs with his own crew. In order to speed up the completion of his dream he decides to throw in with Prosky's mob, and take on jobs for pay. This leads to a crisis and Caan must make a fateful decision.
Great photography; terse and tough dialogue; terrific pounding soundtrack; absolutely stunning & complex robberies; stylish direction and excellent acting. Really good stuff.
This is a great companion piece to Mann's "Heat". I want to think that it is Caan's character that DeNiro refers to in Heat as the old guy in prison that taught him you have to be ready to drop and leave everything in your life if the "Heat" is near....anyway, this was the terrific precursor to that great film, and you can see that the themes explored here were later developed and elaborated on in Heat. Two great films. This one 4-1/2 stars.
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on April 13, 2001
Edition: Special Director's Edition
Audio: Very Good
Video: Very Good, some ghosting or artifacts
Extras: Commentary, Full Motion Scene Index, Extra Scenes, Trailers, Widescreen, Subtitles
Master thief who can "take a trimmin" battles back against a mobster and the cops while carrying a picture of Willie Nelson, swearing he'll "never, ever, take a pinch from a greasy motherf*#@$! like you!" Commentary is funny, sort of inside story stuff. There is one extra scenes inserted, doesn't add much but it doesn't take too long. Haven't heard it in 5.1, but the stereo reproduction is excellent, especially if you are a fan of the Tangerine Dream soundtrack. You get to learn cool facts about some of the other actors in the movie listening to the commentary, like which ones used to be cops and crooks in real life. Could have had more extra features, like a making of and stuff, but they have to save something for the Extra Special Director's Cut Awards Edition, right? Excellent DVD.
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on December 6, 2000
Michael Mann's dark and intriguing 1981 crime film "Thief",....adapted from the Frank Hohimer novel "The Home Invaders" is finally out on DVD and packed with interesting features including insightful commentary by director Michael Mann and star James Caan.
Additionally, there are deleted scenes, theatrical trailer and an 8 page booklet too....excellent additions to accompany the DVD release of this noir cult film. The DVD color transfer is excellent...precisely capturing the neon lit and rain swept night world of crime...and Tangerine Dreams haunting soundtrack is brilliant in Dolby sound. Mann's movie depicts the life of ex-convict turned professional thief, Frank (James Caan) who maintains an honest veneer during the day as a car dealership manager, but his nights are spent with partner Barry (James Belushi) carrying out elaborate jewel robberies. Frank falls in with criminal mastermind, Leo (Robert Prosky in a chilling performance) who is seemingly a guardian angel...but the relationship quickly sours and Franks world crumbles and then ignites in violence and death.
Mann's highly effective use of light and color give an eerie ambience to this film...and the first rate support cast including Tuesday Weld and Willie Nelson as the ailing master safe cracker, Okla....give "Thief" a polished finish. Director Michael Mann continued his motif of criminal thrillers in later years with TV shows like Miami Vice & Crime Story...and films like Manhunter & Heat.
A very worthy addition to your DVD of intense, intelligent crime saga's will definitely enjoy !!
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on May 23, 2000
Michael Mann's adaptation of Frank Hohimer's book "The Home Invaders" makes as sparkling but doom-laden a tale of suspense and human drama as it did on its release almost 20 years ago. James Caan gives a powerful performance as an ex-con safe-cracker, prepared to sacrifice everything and anyone else in order to live up to his unrealistic (and rather naïve and simplistic) belief in his own personal freedom to control his life. It also features James Belushi in his first major film role.
This movie is not so much concerned with action (though it has plenty) as with the ideology (albeit a rather warped one) of the individual-something that is rather out of fashion these days. Most of the drama in this film is carried in the dialogue, which Mann allows sufficient time to play out fully, making it a slower-paced but more intimate film than one likely to be made nowadays. Mann's use of real ex- (and not-so-ex-!) safe-crackers as 'technical consultants' during the making of the film-as well as most scenes being filmed using real gear, not studio mock-ups-also imbue the film with a gritty realism that is also rare these days. (The camera tricks employed during the final shoot-out scene are a bit silly, though.)
Mann's choice of Tangerine Dream to supply the music for the film was another masterstroke, adding to the raw, ice-edged feel of the film. Naturally, Mann knows precisely when to use the music to its full and when to hold off, making it all the more effective. Long periods with neither dialogue nor music all add to the feeling of realism-and the suspense.
This DVD production is a slightly different cut from that released in cinemas (although not significantly) and also includes an interesting commentary audio track by Mann and Caan. Unfortunately, it suffers somewhat from poor image quality-no anamorphic enhancement-for which it loses a star. Otherwise, this comes highly recommended for lovers of grittier fare.
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