Thief (1981) – Michael Mann

Michael Mann is a fantastic director. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen by him, but for some reason, I had never gotten around to checking out his 1981 film, Thief, starring James Caan.

Featuring Mann’s iconic shooting style, gritty, neon-lit city life, the film follows Frank (Caan), a master thief who is intent on pulling one last big heist before trying to go straight with his new wife, Jessie (Tuesday Weld).

He commits to a one-time deal with mob boss, Leo (Robert Prosky) for a massive diamond heist, but no matter how professional he remains on the job, things aren’t going to play out the way he plans. With his partner, Barry (James Belushi) at his side, he scopes the target, determines the needs and plan and puts it all into action, all whole Leo looks after his personal needs, a home, a life, more, intent on pulling him into the family completely.

Thief feels like it shares a world with Heat and there are definitely parallels between the two stories, but both of them are exemplary in their own ways. I’ve never been the biggest James Caan fan but man, he nails this. There’s a cold edge to him, even when he’s trying to romance Jessie that just feels dangerous. You wouldn’t want to cross him, and you know that those who do are going to regret it before the story ends.

I really enjoyed Prosky in this role, cause you usually see him cast as nice guys, and this is so against type, and he leans into it, the audience wants to trust him, and so does Frank, which we don’t realize is going to be a bad choice for both.

Tightly edited, gorgeously shot and staged, Thief is absolutely captivating. Michael Mann is a storyteller who understands the assignment each and every time, and though it took me way too long to come to this title, it will definitely find its way into my favourite Mann films.

The film also features a fantastic score by Tangerine Dream which works perfectly with the images on the screen.

Thief is a smart, well-made film that easily stands the test of time and showcases Mann’s incredible directorial abilities. I was surprised to see Belushi in the film, more well know for his comedic work, which drew unfair comparisons to his late brother, Belushi is a straight arrow in the film, and carries his part with ease.

Also, there’s Dennis Farina! He doesn’t say much but he shows up in a few scenes as one of Leo’s thugs.

Thief is a great movie and, one of those ones that I can’t belive it took me so long to see.

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