Thief (Action, Crime Drama 1981) (18) D: Michael Mann: W: Frank Homier (novel “The Home Invaders”): C: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky, Dennis Farina 2h 2m. USA.
TAGLINE : Tonight, his take home pay is £410,000… tax free
Synopsis: Becoming close to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safe cracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him.
Though not a box office success, Thief certainly made a name for Michael Mann and brought him international acclaim and led to a series of dark stylish crime movies such as Manhunter (1986) the gangland epic LA Takeddown (1995) and the mob assassination thriller Colateral (2004).
Set in Chicago, mostly at night and in the rain Thief is easily described as a Neo-Noir masterpiece. Its hard-nosed protagonist Frank (Caan) is a freelance safe cracker, and head of a small gang including (James Belushi) this is one of Manns trademarks, setting up a group of 1-4 deadpan male protagonists who are experts in some profession. After spending a few years building up his reputation in the dealing of uncut diamonds and cover as a used car dealer, Franks need for human warmth over takes and he decides to get married to another loaner like himself Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and to start a family, this leads to one of the most unromantic but impressive chat up and marriage proposals in cinematic history. Franks primary ambition is to leave the trade and settle down, but this involves doing one last job for the mafia. At every attempt to leave the sleazy underworld he’s forced back into it, even getting his newly adopted kid from the black market with his mobster ties.
The hi tech heists are preformed to the pounding, driven music of German electronic group Tangerine Dream who Mann uses in numerous future films, similar to Greenaway and Nyman, the atmosphere and harmony are outstanding. Franks unrelenting dry humour and harsh personality clashes with everyone around him and makes him the driving force for everything around him. That spark and catalyst couldn’t have been produced by any other actor, even Caan himself claims that is some of his best work and Mann was sure to give him a lot of freedom with this character, as we possibly seeing James Caan as himself on screen?
A ground breaking starting point for so many stylised movies from a great director, teamed with a resounding soundtrack the results are shocking and sharp. This film started a new wave dirty crime movies, and anti hero’s that warm our hearts despite their hard natures. A total triumph all round.
Rating : 10/10
R: Manhunter (1986) , LA Takedown (1989), Carlitos Way (1993). Layer Cake (2004), Drive (2011)
Q: Frank “Nobody like older kids, You got an eight-year old black chink kid, we’ll take him.”
TIL: You never get out of the business alive
BS: Opening credits deserve a mention, pounding tangerine dream soundtrack and amazing visuals of a safe cracking job, simply magic.
I also adore the scene where Frank (Caan) proposes to Jessie (Weld) in the most charming and unromantic way possible but it works!
OST: Tangerine Dream
L: Thief movies, Getting out of the business films, Favourite Mann movies, Musicians in films. Films that have been improved by Tangerine Dream OST
5B: Jame Cann, James Belushi, Michael Mann,Dennis Farina, Robert Prosky.
DGI: Knock a shot every time Caan insults someone?!