Classic – Thief
In 1981, the debut feature film from Hollywood director Michael Mann was released. Starring James Caan, Thief, is a hell of a first film.
The premise of Thief isn’t groundbreaking. Frank (Caan), a successful jewellery thief takes on one last big job that should set him up for the rest of his life.
But Thief still cuts through even over 40 years later.
Mann was already well considered as a director by this point after a TV movie ‘The Jericho Mile’ had been very well received – in Europe it was actually released as a feature film.
Point of Note : The film ‘The Jericho Mile’ is now on Youtube here… The Jericho Mile
Frank’s success through his criminal career so far is based on his ability to reject relationships, new connections and stick to his own rules. He’s previously spent 11 years in prison and is chasing the time he’s already lost. However as he meets Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and falls in love, the whole dynamic of his work begins to change, especially as he works with an underworld boss called Leo (Robert Prosky).
Having seen Heat (1995), there are moments and themes here that really inform that film. High style, really understanding the people behind these crimes, the need to stay alone from relationships for a criminal to try to succeed, a criminal who is never willing to go back to prison. All of these elements are in there and its powerful to see the lineage of the themes here.
Caan is remarkable in the film with precision in dialogue and restrained emotion. The score (by Tangerine Dreams) elevates the film and feels as though it may have inspired some of the work by Moroder for Scarface.
Its not a complex story but 40 years on it remains a powerful watch, with some incredible shots and Caan’s performance alone would justify the watch.