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Thief ( 1981)

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Michael Mann.  I have to give Criterion credit for making me aware of this film.  Let me back up.  I've been a fan of Michael Mann ever since his production of Miami Vice.  I believe his work for that series (television) undermines in SOME people's views just how good of a FILM director he really is.  How I slept on this film is beyond me ( see my last sentence as a possible reason). I've had it on my viewing list since last November and finally got around to screening it.  The last film I saw of Mann's is the Miami Vice remake back in 2006.  That film is just now receiving the critical praise that it should've gotten back then. Its a excellent contemporary take on the Miami Vice series.  When i found out about " Thief", I knew it was gonna be good but not THIS good.

The first thing that struck me from the opening credits is the fact that Michael Mann was doing THIS before Miami Vice.  Based in Chicago it could've easily been located in Miami.  The music, cinematography, everything screamed what later would become Mann's signature style. 

The plot.  For those who haven't seen it.  Frank ( James Caan) is a jewel thief in Chicago.  After making a big score, the plot takes him to a meeting with Leo ( Robert Prosky) who wants to recruit Frank to work for him.

I've been a huge fan of gangster and heist films from the early 80s to the present. The stand out heist film from this period to me has always been Mann's film " Heist".  I said HAS because I think Thief is the better film.  There are two major reasons for this.  First, the length of Heist. Its almost 50 more minutes in length than Thief.  This lends itself to a few scenes that dragged the film down, in particular the time spent with the romances of two of the leads in the thief ring.  The second thing that I feel this film has a edge on is the plot itself.  Whereas Heist was more over the top, ala Scarface in its production and plot, Thief was more lean and believable.  Everything about Frank was believable.  The ending was believable.  Its just great writing and production in this one.  I think its Mann's best film.  Heat and even another Mann film,  Collateral,  are both great films, don't get me wrong, but Thief is on another level.  It has immediately jumped among the top of my favorite Heist films category.  Again, HOW did I not know of this film?  I rank it a solid 9.5 out of 10...

 

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M'mmmph. I'm not a fan of this director AT ALL. His 'signature style' leaves me cold.

But yes, this particular flick is a good movie IN SPITE of his hand at the helm.

Caan was peaking around that time. Co-star: Tuesday Weld. I believe that Robert Prosky would later show up on Hill St Blues after Michael Conrad's passing.

Music score: by famed euro-electronica group, Tangerine Dream.

Its generally a taut and well done piece of work overall; with the initial break-in taking up the first x amount of minutes, MOS. The downside is that I can't even recall how the film climaxed. Everything is in the opening sequence.

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On 10/12/2018 at 1:35 PM, Sgt_Markoff said:

M'mmmph. I'm not a fan of this director AT ALL. His 'signature style' leaves me cold.

But yes, this particular flick is a good movie IN SPITE of his hand at the helm.

Caan was peaking around that time. Co-star: Tuesday Weld. I believe that Robert Prosky would later show up on Hill St Blues after Michael Conrad's passing.

Music score: by famed euro-electronica group, Tangerine Dream.

Its generally a taut and well done piece of work overall; with the initial break-in taking up the first x amount of minutes, MOS. The downside is that I can't even recall how the film climaxed. Everything is in the opening sequence.

I love Mann's style. I can tell he got some of his style from Jean Pierre Melville.  Nowhere as good as Melville but you can tell he is a fan of Melville's style.  Thief is a Great film and I believe it to be possibly Mann's best film...

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Fair enough, but I must say I'm surprised to discover it as part of the Criterion Collection. If Mann ever heard of Melville I'd be surprised to learn that as well. Christopher Nolan for example, was clueless when he made 'Inception'--never seen, maybe never even heard of 'Last Year in Marienbad'. By his own admission.

I'll expand on my earlier comment--after the wonderful opening of 'Thief' I can't remember much about the plot at all. I know Caan must hassle with the mob about something and I know he's got to reassure Weld that everything's going to be alright but whatever the main gripe between Caan and the mafia is, seems immediately lost as the film progresses. Caan has to arm himself with a .45 (above0 but where does the showdown take place? Who is the villain? I have no idea --and I'm a fan of the flick!

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Fair enough, but I must say I'm surprised to discover it as part of the Criterion Collection. If Mann ever heard of Melville I'd be surprised to learn that as well. Christopher Nolan for example, was clueless when he made 'Inception'--never seen, maybe never even heard of 'Last Year in Marienbad'. By his own admission.

I'll expand on my earlier comment--after the wonderful opening of 'Thief' I can't remember much about the plot at all. I know Caan must hassle with the mob about something and I know he's got to reassure Weld that everything's going to be alright but whatever the main gripe between Caan and the mafia is, seems immediately lost as the film progresses. Caan has to arm himself with a .45 (above0 but where does the showdown take place? Who is the villain? I have no idea --and I'm a fan of the flick!

I'm not alone in my accessment that Mann HAD to have been influenced by Melville.  " Thief, Heat and ESPECIALLY Collateral are obviously influenced by Melville.

  https://mubi.com/specials/the-crimes-of-jean-pierre-melville

https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/all-men-are-guilty-three-films-by-jean-pierre-melville

As far as the plot of Thief, its been a while but what I remember is Cann's character gets involved with a gangster who wants Cann to continue working for him even though Cann wants to get out of the business.  This sets up the climatic second half of the film.

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