3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2004
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!.
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 looked....hot..!!!!
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'
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.
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.
on February 22, 2003
THIS FILM WAS LARGELY IGNORED WHEN RELEASED IN 1981. IT WAS ALSO CRITIZED FOR EXCESSIVE VIOLENCE. BUT THE VIOLENCE ONLY COMES IN THE FINAL CONFRONTATION AND IS CERTINELY JUSTIFIED GIVEN THE ELEMENTS THAT PRECEDE IT.
'TANGERINE DREAM' SCORES THE MODERN DAY FILM NOIR WITH ELECTRIC EFFECTIVENESS.
JAMES CAAN IS 'FRANK' IN THIS CHARACTER STUDY OF A PROFESSIONAL SAFE CRACKER TRYING TO MAKE ONE LAST SCORE AND RETIRE TO HIS IDEALIC PERCIEVED SELF CONSTRUCTED LIFE.
NORMALLY AN INDEPENDANT OPERATOR, HE GRUDINGLY THROWS IN WITH THE MOB TO EXPEDITE HIS DREAM.
BUT WHEN THE BIG JOB IS DONE AND PAYDAY COMES FRANK FINDS HIMSELF ANCHORED INTO A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BAD GUYS THAT HE WANTS NO PART OF.
THIS DARK SULLEN FILM IS WELL DONE THANKS TO MICHAEL MANN OF 'MIAMI VICE' FAME, WHO DIRECTS IT WITH A REALISTIC EDGY FEEL THAT HASNT BEEN SUCESSFULLY COPIED YET EXCEPT BY HIMSELF IN ANOTHER CRIME FILM CALLED 'HEAT.'
THE MOST MEMORABLE SCENE IS PLAYED OUT WHEN FRANK SHOWS UP TO COLLECT HIS 'END.' THE MOB BOSS FINALLY REALIZES THAT FRANK IS NOT GOING TO CONFORM EASILY AND WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE HE TELLS FRANK TO "JOIN A LABOR UNION." TO WHICH CAAN'S 'FRANK PUTS HIS HAND ON HIS .45 TUCKED INTO HIS WAISTBAND AND RESPONDS WITH "IM WEARIN IT."
THE CRIME BOSS KILLS FRANKS PARTNER AND HAS FRANK HIMSELF BEATEN.
FRANKS ENVISIONED HAPPINESS IS SHATTERED AND HE SETS OUT ON ONE LAST MISSION TO DESTROY ALL HE HAS WORKED FOR AND THE MOBSTERS IN THE PROCESS.
THE FINALLY IS INTENSE AND REALISTIC WITHOUT BEING OVERDONE.
JAMES CAAN'S AGGRESSIVE 'FRANK' IS EXTREMELY WELL DONE. SUPPORTING ROLES ARE ALSO NOTABLE WITH JAMES BELUSHI AND TUESDAY WELD.
'THIEF' IS A MOVIE THAT MOVES AND IS THE BEST EFFORT AT CONTEMPORARY FILM NOIR TO DATE.
on March 31, 2002
James Caan is at his best as a thief who hooks up with the wrong people. Caan plays Frank a thief who always works alone and with minimal help from trusted aids (Jim Belushi in an early role) and never takes a job to high risk. Agianst his better judgment he hooks up with Leo (Robert Prosky) a mobster who enlists Frank to do a high profile job. Frank has problems of his own like his new wife Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and trying to adopt a child, not to mention the police know he is in town...Well of course things go wrong and Leo informs Frank that he is not a man to be messed with. By the end Leo finds out Frank isn't either. Willie Nelson has a small but pivital role as an inmate friend of Franks.
Not sense the Godfather has James Caan had a better role. This movie is the kind of Great drama we can expect from Michael Mann who brought us Heat, The Insider, Manhunter and Ali. Caan is both menacing and vulnerable at the same time. He seems like nothing bothers him on the outside but lets you in just enough to understand.
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.
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.
on November 8, 2001
I first saw this movie on the big screen 3 times upon its original release. This movie has the kind of intrigue and noir atmosphere that was incredible in the theatre, and that "Tangerine Dream" soundtrack in Dolby surround, was truly unforgettable. ..............Out on the brightly lit nightime rain soaked streets of Chicago, we meet Frank. James Caan brings him to life as the all time coolest, sexiest, street savvy and self assured robber to hit the silver screen. In my personal opinion, this remains Caan's finest role to date. ............... We open as Frank gets shorted in a diamond heist payoff by a fence. By going after his shorted payoff, he meets mobster heavy "Leo" played by Robert Prosky...............Leo is impressed with Frank and makes him an offer to come on board as a "freelancer". Just "a couple of moves" for Frank, and Leo sells Frank the idea that he can make his dreams of independence... financially and personally, come true. There is an unforseen price to be paid. Watch and find out!!..............Frank has a picture collage that represents his life, and the pictures on it, represent different elements of that life. When Frank meets Tuesday Weld in a coffee shop he frequents, to get calls about "moves."(No cell phones back then!) He persues her relentlessly, having decided she fits one of the pieces of his puzzle. She's skeptical, but, at last, Frank convinces her to "be" with him..................Now with the wife piece of the puzzle in place, Frank goes to work for Leo. Soon after, other outside parties are interested in a piece of his action. Frank is annoyed, and the relatioship with Leo begins to sour.............Frank agrees to one final job. Although successful, the payoff from Leo isn't what he had in mind. Frank is angry that the elements of his puzzle didn't pan out. He subsequently sets out to destroy all that stands in the way of his dreams. .................Finally, when it's payback time, a wonderfully filmed noir slow motion finale begins with that sensual Tangerine Dream soundtrack. I find it very similar to the ending of Pink Floyds "Comfortably Numb" classic of the same era. ........... Director Michael Mann, famous for his "Miami Vice" TV series, as well as "Manhunter" and the famed Al Pacino/Robert DeNiro classic "Heat", shows his great potential in this early noir masterpiece. Every element in this film is perfection. Dialogue, cast, atmosphere, and the aforementioned fabulous soundtrack that enhances every scene beautifully. "Thief", has it all. The cameos from Willie Nelson and Dennis Farina in his debut on the big screen, replete with BLACK hair, as one of Leos henchmen, are also fun surprises along the way................... Overall, "Thief" sizzles with real quality filmaking on every level.
on September 9, 2001
Based loosely of the book "The Home Invaders" by Frank Hohimer, this has got to be the most realistic crime movie ever made. Being from Chicago helps out a lot. The characters you see in this movie are the type of people that you run into in Chicago. From Taglia to the fat Italian fence, these guys are like people you deal with in Chicago. Robert Prosky, who plays Leo, is based after the real life character Leo Rugendorf. He was one of the most cold blooded gangsters ever to walk Chicago. Leo real life job was as a bails bondsman and fence for his crew of jewel thieves he employed. Hohimer was one of them. And he owned a meat factory, which is were he got rid of his victims. ...
A lot of people are turned off by this movie because its slow and there's not much action. This movie is as real as it gets. The dialogue, music, and acting is superb. Mann is probably the best director of realistic movies around. What I like the most about him is that he stays loyal to his actors. He uses most of his actors in more then just one movie. John Santucci was in Thief, Miami Vice and Crime Story. Dennis Farina was in Thief, Manhunter, and Crime Story. William Peterson was in Thief and Manhunter. That's just to name a few.
Anyway get this movie if you like intelligent stories that does not need action and if you want to know what the crime world is really like.