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Thief (1981)

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1:52 | Trailer

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Coming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the Mafia, who has other plans for him.

Director:

Michael Mann

Writers:

Frank Hohimer (novel), Michael Mann (screen story) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Caan ... Frank
Tuesday Weld ... Jessie
Willie Nelson ... Okla
Jim Belushi ... Barry (as James Belushi)
Robert Prosky ... Leo
Tom Signorelli Tom Signorelli ... Attaglia
Dennis Farina ... Carl
Nick Nickeas Nick Nickeas ... Nick
W.R. Brown W.R. Brown ... Mitch (as W.R. [Bill] Brown)
Norm Tobin Norm Tobin ... Guido
John Santucci John Santucci ... Urizzi
Gavin MacFadyen Gavin MacFadyen ... Boreksco
Chuck Adamson Chuck Adamson ... Ancell
Sam Cirone Sam Cirone ... Martello
Spero Anast Spero Anast ... Bukowski
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Storyline

Frank is an expert professional safecracker, specializing in high-profile diamond jobs. After having spent many years in prison, he has a very concrete picture of what he wants out of life--including a nice home, a wife, and kids. As soon as he is able to assemble the pieces of this collage, by means of his chosen profession, he intends to retire and become a model citizen. In an effort to accelerate this process, he signs on to take down a huge score for a big-time gangster. Unfortunately, Frank's obsession for his version of the American Dream allows him to overlook his natural wariness and mistrust, when making the deal for his final job. He is thus ensnared and robbed of his freedom, his independence, and, ultimately, his dream. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Tonight, his take home pay is $410,000...tax free.


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 March 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Thief See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$11,492,915
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mann/Caan Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jeff Bridges was Michael Mann's choice to play Frank, but was rejected, due to the fact he was young, and wasn't experienced enough to play a hardened criminal. See more »

Goofs

After Frank puts the transponder on the bus bound for Des Moines, the scene reveals the police car holding back traffic for the shot behind. See more »

Quotes

Okla: Lie to no one. If there 's somebody close to you, you'll ruin it with a lie. If they're a stranger, who the fuck are they you gotta lie to them?
See more »

Alternate Versions

In 1995, Thief was released in a new LaserDisc set billed as the 'Special Director's Edition', which was carried over to the film's 1998 DVD release. For 16 years, this was the only home video release of the film in the US until Criterion's 2014 edition. Differences between this version and the theatrical version are as follows: 1. There is a new scene with Wille Dixon on the bank on the Chicago river. Scene takes place directly after Caan's car drives away from the opening heist. A slow dissolve has been added that transitions to this new scene (normally the film cuts directly to Frank at the car lot) 2. Beach Scene - Mann removed a slow-motion shot of Tuesday Weld walking with the baby. First she is smiling, then looks over at Frank with a sort of melancholy expression. The whole shot is only about 7 seconds long -- but it is nowhere to be found in the "Special Director's Edition". In order to make up for the lost seconds, Mann make two editorial choices that end up hurting the original music/visual flow of the film. a) In the theatrical cut, we clearly see Caan light up the cigarette, then he nods his head a few times -- then on the music beat change -- cut to the Beach Scene. Perfect match of Tangerine Dream's music and visual cut. b) In the Special Director's Edition -- Mann cuts a few seconds from Caan's victory nod -- then cuts to the Beach Scene *before* the music cue change. Then Mann just slows down the images of the waves (to make up for the time lost) before the camera pans up to Frank. No music-visual cut transition. 3. House Exploding - when comparing the Theatrical and Director's Edition, there seems to be better clarity in the explosion. Screen appears to blow-out to white in the Director's Edition that looks different. This is only very slight and probably only noticeable if you watch both side by side. 4. Confrontation Shootout - Mann used a video post-production technique to speed up several shots/frames during the final shootout. a) When Frank shoots Attaglia, the body appears to hit the ground faster. b) When Frank is shot by Carl (Dennis Farina), and you can see the window break on the car and Frank falls to the ground -- all this has been sped up. c) When Frank shoots Carl, he falls back (in three cuts) into the bushes. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Clockers (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

Turning Point
(uncredited)
Written by Leo Graham
Performed by Tyrone Davis
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Movie Review: Thief (1981)
18 August 2009 | by dking1583See all my reviews

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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