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Thief
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Reviews & Ratings for
Thief More at IMDbPro »

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74 out of 89 people found the following review useful:

Michael Mann's best movie, with James Caan' best performance. 'Thief' is a hardboiled crime classic not to be missed!

Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
11 March 2003

'Thief' is one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s, if not of all time. Made in the early 80s by TV veteran Michael Mann, and co-produced by the future "king" of action blockbusters Jerry Bruckheimer, this movie can almost be seen as the transition from 1970s character based crime DRAMA to 1980s flashy but brainless 1980s crime ACTION. In that sense 'Thief' is the last great 1970s movie of the 1980s. Mann made at least two great movies after this ('Manhunter' and 'Heat'), but I still think it is is his best and most satisfying work. James Caan believes that the movie contains his finest performance and I'm inclined to agree with him. Caan is dynamite throughout. He oozes charisma and is impossible to take your eyes off, but also gives a subtle and complex performance. The film works both as an exciting caper movie, and as a human drama. In many ways it is the best crime film to pull that off since Dassin's 'Rififi' in the mid 1950s. Cann is helped by a superb supporting cast, who on the surface may seem a motley bunch, but all are very good - Tuesday Weld ('Who'll Stop The Rain'), Jim Belushi (his movie debut), a memorable cameo from country legend Willie Nelson, and especially a fantastic turn from Robert Prosky. Prosky is probably best known to most viewers as the kindly father-figure he played in 'Hill Street Blues'. His turn here as a ruthless gangster is a complete eye opener! Prosky delivers one of the most vicious lines ever heard in a movie, which is a bit too extreme for me to quote here, but believe me, you will never forget it when you hear it! Many people seem to find Tangerine Dream's dated synth score to be extremely irritating but I actually enjoyed it and thought it helped build the mood. 'Thief' is a hardboiled crime classic and is highly recommended to any fan of the genre, especially those made in the 1970s. It is wildly underrated and deserves to be rediscovered by a larger audience. 'Thief' is simply one of THE great "lost" classics of the last thirty years.

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65 out of 77 people found the following review useful:

One of My All Time Faves - But the original is gone I suspect

Author: Ted Moran (tandkmoran@comcast.net) from United States
27 March 2006

Saw this in the theater at it's release. Went back the next weekend and scenes were cut. They remain cut in every version I've seen since. Frank snaps chalk lines off traces of blueprints onto the safe face in the opening heist. Guess the crime commission didn't dig that, 'cause that 5 seconds is history in every cut I've seen since. How do the boys and their gear get up on the roof of the bank building? Rocket assisted grappling hook mortars firing mountain lines and Jumar ascenders from the parking lot. You won't see that scene anymore, either. Man, I miss the Corned Beefs at the Belden Deli on Clark where Frank hands the stones to Gags. Long gone. But if you are in Chicago, stop in early at the Green Mill and you might be able to have a drink in that big, round wood booth - still there. Great gun & car flick. Frank's .45 looks like a Bomar Svenson custom combat, tremendous. Watch for the High Standard 12 guage stakeout special at the end - very rare. Take a drive up north on Western Avenue to check out all the used car lots - still there. Great locations. Yup, the creme was ALWAYS cottage cheese at the old Oasis restuarants. Yuch! You know - Tuesday Weld actually even ACTS a little in this movie, amazing. Man that was a gorgeous house in my old neighborhood and yes they blew it up. Notice when they are snuggling on the outdoor patio - it had a two-sided fireplace - indoor and outdoor. Probably the best Chicago movie ever. The phone book and trash can - time honored tools of the early 80's. When I saw it opening night the theater was filled with every crook and detective on the north side with their wives. And everybody just nodded to each other on the way out. Those days are gone but not forgotten. Great, great flick. Cool TD soundtrack album, too. Also probably the best metallurgical movie ever. I want Frank's coat.

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49 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

a real classic!

Author: dtucker86 from Germany
21 October 2001

Even though this film was made only a little over two decades ago, I consider it a film-noir classic! James Caan said once that this was the film he was in that he was proudest of next to The Godfather. I remember that Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel said this was one of the finest films of 1981. Caan is wonderful in a role that he was born to play, a tough guy with his heart on his sleeve. Everything about this film is wonderful from the musical score by Tangerine Dream to the dark lighting effects to the authentic detail about the life of a thief ( I read that Michael Mann actually used real life thieves as technical advisors to this film!). Even though Caan's character is an anti-hero, you have to feel sorry for him because he is caught in a situation where there is no way out! The best scene in the film is where he tells Tuesday Weld about his prison experiences and shows here the picture cut out that he has made of his American dream. Jimmy Caan is truly awesome, he is the only actor that ever made me cry (in Brian's Song) I also wanted to mention another great character actor who is in the film. His name is Robert Prosky and he plays the mob boss who uses Caan. This was his film debut after many years as a stage actor and he is terrific. Watch the scene in the acid plant where he threatens Caan. He is really chilling! Michael Mann created Crime Story and Miami Vice and he also directed Manhunter, but lets not forget this film as well.

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29 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

A bit dated but still one of the finest action films ever made

8/10
Author: TheMarquisDeSuave from Worcester, MA
3 February 2008

"Thief" may fool some viewers into overlooking just how intelligently made it is, mainly because of how dated it initially appears. Its full of quick cuts, a pounding Tangerine Dream score, and flashy cars and clothing. Knowing that Michael Mann later made "Miami Vice", one may fear this will resemble a feature-length episode of that show. Fortunately, one realizes quickly that this is a really quality product. Its dated elements can't really be held against the filmmakers, and considering that "Scarface" was still two years away, this style could be considered a bit ahead of its time. The screenplay is just so powerful and well developed that it overcomes its limitations quickly. Mann is well known for making smart, character-driven action films, and "Thief" is no exception. This ranks with "Manhunter" as his finest achievement in my mind.

As good as the direction and script are, what really makes the film is James Caan. Caan has always been a criminally underrated performer, and as a strangely moral thief who wants to leave the business, he's never been better. He infuses a good deal of nuance and subtlety into the performance that only reveals itself with repeated viewings. Its proof that the man is as good as either DeNiro or Pacino. Tuesday Weld is also fantastic, offering possibly her finest performance (and she still looks terrific fifteen years after her peak of stardom). Even Willie Nelson and James Belushi give good portrayals. "Thief" is a really fantastic hardboiled crime thriller that appears a bit dated but ends up being as potent as ever. (8/10)

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37 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

Michael Mann's Masterpiece

Author: marquis de cinema from Boston, MA
16 February 2001

Thief(1981) contains the best performance of James Caan as a professional thief in a rare leading role. He is complex and three deminsional as the protagonist, Frank. Thief(1981) is similar in many ideas to the Dustin Hoffman film, Straight Time(1977). One of the best directorial debut as Michael Mann gives a realistic portrayal of the hardships in being a professional thief. The movie does a good job in showing the corruption that Frank has to go against.

Its much better than Heat(1995) because it focuses on one person instead of trying to interweave in confusing detail the lives of two people who are opposite in job but the same in spirit. Willie Nelson is terrific in the small of of Frank's mentor, Okla. Robert Prosky is impressive as the father like crime boss, Leo. The heist scenes are the highlight of the film. Thief(1981) has to be one of the best movies to come out during the 1980s and is definitely the director's top film.

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16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Movie Review: Thief (1981)

8/10
Author: The King Bulletin from United States
18 August 2009

Thief, made way back in 1981, was Michael Mann's directorial debut and it is a fascinating heist film that has a lot more to it than you might think. Sure, it is a movie about a professional jewel thief, and there are extended sequences throughout the film depicting his expertise; however, I think the core of this movie is about relationships. It's about the type of relationships a person needs to have in order to live a rewarding life.

James Caan stars as the expert thief named Frank. Caan gives a remarkable performance in the title role creating a multi-layered character that is rarely seen in these types of movies. The movie shows us just how good Frank is at his job in the opening scene by showing him cracking a safe with tremendous ease. However, after he finishes the job, we see that there is more to Frank than just a jewel thief. He owns a car dealership and a restaurant, and he also makes a promise to break his mentor and father figure, Okla (Willie Nelson), out of prison. But to complete the picture, Frank needs a woman. In the memorable diner sequence, Frank opens his heart to a virtual stranger (Tuesday Weld) and they eventually get married.

Frank needs these relationships to be able to move on from his passion for theft and live a controlled, settled-down life style. In order to be able to retire much sooner, Frank sets up one more job with a powerful crime boss named Leo (Robert Prosky). Leo appears to be nice on the outside and tries to take Frank under his wing, but when Frank stays true to his desire of getting in and getting out, things take a turn for the worse.

This is a rare thriller film that has a lot of character development and also retains a fast pace throughout. From the great performances to the breathtaking score by Tangerine Dream, this is a film that is full of Mann trademarks from start to finish. It is one of his best works to date that is even good enough to draw inevitable comparisons to his future films such as Heat, Manhunter, and Public Enemies.

The only thing that disappointed me in this film was the ending. While I applaud the film for not choosing to travel the "happily ever after" route, I still don't think the movie ended on quite the right note. Even though the final sequence is a heart-pounding sequence of cat and mouse, I'm not sure it did justice to the relationships and the development that Frank's character made and experienced throughout the film.

This is a film that was not initially successful in commercial terms, but as Mann's name has turned into one that is synonymous with crime sagas, the film's popularity has increased since its initial theatrical release. A lot of that is due to the performance of James Caan, which is as good as anything he has ever done. He creates, in my opinion, one of the best characters ever to be featured in a Mann film. The movie is so smart and professionally made that it is definitely a film that anyone would enjoy. Ranking among Mann's best all-time work, Thief is a mesmerizing entry in the crime genre.

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

When James Caan was allowed to be real!

9/10
Author: SomeUselessGeek from United States
4 May 2010

This is one of the few Michael Mann films I can stand to watch. Caan is at his absolute peak here, with his intensity just blazing off the screen. The supporting cast is excellent, the edits are perfect, everything just clicks.

As has been noted by other reviewers, the technical aspects of this film are right on the money. All the locations are really there (or were at one time) and the settings didn't have to be faked up. Yes, Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland is really like this, folks.

I try to watch this thing every few years. Should buy a DVD, I guess, and insert it into my permanent circular film buffer.

Highly, highly recommended.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Michael Mann's Thief Steals the Show

10/10
Author: arthurclay from Italy
20 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie that started his career and what a way to start. Realism is played out to the hilt and nothing is left to chance with this brilliant book to movie adaptation. James Caan is at the top of his game and wows you. Caan is Frank, a professional safe-cracker who is successful and single. After pulling a heist, he finds himself in a unique position. A powerful boss offers Frank phenomenal jobs and a huge cut of the action if he will work for him and for him exclusively. Frank is impressed by his stature and agrees. However, the local crooked cops turn up the heat on Frank and want in. And Frank's new crime family wants more than his services. So Frank is forced to fight back and prove he is not only the best thief but the toughest crook in Chicago. The supporting cast was hand picked and it's easy to tell. I never thought I would hear myself say this but Willie Nelson does a fine job acting at least in this. Same goes, of course, to Jim Belushi. I have surprised myself twice in two sentences. James Caan really convinces you he is the real deal and it's the role of a lifetime. His acting is second to none and perhaps the best of the three signature Michael Mann anti-heroes. What surprised me the most about this movie was not just the realism of it but that the love interest side of the story was convincing as well. That came as quite a shock to this viewer. He does love and care for his wife and she loves him without reservation. It makes the ending all the more tragic. This film needs to be viewed by anyone who enjoys crime films, mob films, or Mann films. My favorite movie of 1981.

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15 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Sublime Mann & Caan character study of a career criminal

Author: george.schmidt (gpschmidt67@gmail.com) from fairview, nj
23 April 2003

THIEF (1981) *** James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky. Michael Mann's atmospheric and realistic profile of a seasoned professional thief (Caan in a brilliant turn) out for one lucrative score with a dream to lead a normal life with some dire circumstances standing in the way. Great production design and waycool score by Tangerine Dream.

Excellent photography and a genuine storyline since copied to death. A small gem of a film. Noteworthy: look quick for Dennis Farina and John Santucci who would star in Mann's tv series "Crime Story' and William L. Petersen as a bar room bouncer who'd collaborate with Mann in 'Manhunter".

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The thief from Chicago

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
11 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Michael Mann's debut film shows signs of greatness and what would follow. Mr. Mann is a man that knows how to get the best out of his movies, as he clearly shows in the 1981 "Thief". His adaptation of Frank Hohimer's "The Home Invaders" proved to be the right choice. Mr. Mann has to be congratulated about the atmosphere he created for the film and the brilliant music score by Tangerine Dream.

The film concentrates in Frank, the professional thief at the center of the action. Frank is a complex character. He has been in prison, but has no intention of ever going back. If the caper one witnesses at the start of the film was amazing, Mr. Mann had a bigger surprise for us in what Frank and his crew achieve with the job they pull at the end of the film! Frank seems to be a loner. When he meets Jessie, he goes too rough on her, denoting he might like women, but he doesn't know how to treat a wounded soul like this beautiful lady. The scene where Frank takes Jessie into the all night diner, and speak frankly to her, has an improvised look. Whether the director encouraged his star to do so, one will never know, but that's the way it struck us.

Frank's association with the fatherly mob figure Leo proves to be something he wouldn't normally do. Frank attracts, as a result of this partnership, the corrupt cops from Chicago. They know he is hiding behind the car dealer's front and want to shake him up. Frank is way too cool to have anything to do with them, which infuriates these bad detectives following him.

The final scenes show how Frank outfoxes Leo. He has to act tough in order to get Jessie to leave with the infant. Right after that we are treated at a few bombings as Frank is erasing his trail. The final moments at Leo's home is well paced with the violence exploding to a crescendo as we watch how Frank confronts Leo's gang.

James Caan has one of the best moments of his long and distinguished career playing Frank. The actor, under the guidance of Mr. Mann, gives what might be, the performance of his lifetime. Mr. Caan's instincts plays a big dividend. He makes Frank a likable man on the wrong side of the law.

Robert Prosky plays Leo with great panache. This cunning old man feels he can get away with swindling a thief, but in the end, he is proved wrong. Mr. Prosky, a distinguished theater actor, makes an invaluable contribution to the film.

Tuesday Weld, as Jessie, doesn't have too much to do, since the emphasis is on showing Frank. Ms. Weld is not seen as much as one would like to, and it's a shame because she is an intelligent presence in whatever she plays. James Belushi is right in his part. Willie Nelson shows up briefly in a couple of good scenes.

Mr. Mann's film debut heralded there would be better things coming, although if he had only directed "The Thief", he could have felt satisfied of what he accomplished.

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