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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 April 21, 1999
Just so you know: I do like this movie in certain ways. I'm a fan of Michael Mann's stuff and James Caan is The Man, pure and simple. As a portrait of a man undone by his single-minded (or, perhaps more appropriately, simple-minded) devotion to macho fatalism THIEF is strikingly effective and has never been equaled. And that's the problem: This is a terribly joyless, hopeless film. Yes, yes, I know..."it's noir...it's supposed to be fatalistic and downbeat -- that's the point". To which I say, that would be just fine if the filmmakers made any indication that they were at all aware of the irony inherent in the protagonist's self-imposed plight. But Mann aparently takes the melodramatic, existentialist hell he creates for his "hero" seriously. The film seems determined to turn Caan's character into some kind of tortured martyr: The Manic-Depressive Cat Burglar/Saint who sacrifices all vestiges of happiness and joy on the alter of Machismo. In the end all he ends up looking like is a monumentally self-involved and unimaginative loser. Maybe I'm missing the point, but what are we supposed to take away from this? Is THIEF supposed to be tragedy? What's tragic about it? The guy's a dunce: At the end his problems have been solved in a hail of lead but he chooses to walk away from everything simply because that's the only way he can remain true to his manly "code". Sorry, but that's just S-T-U-P-I-D. I thought this sort of he-man posturing went out with Hemingway. To much to ask for, I guess. Anyway, like I said at the beginning, I do admire this film for the skill with which it was made. The technical credits and acting are unimpeachable, so it's not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. It's just a really hollow, empty-headed film and that's a shame. Oh, well. See Michael Man's HEAT. It's a much more satisfying meditation on similar themes.
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'