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Thief (1981)

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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 »
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Popularity
4,733 ( 2,214)
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

Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider were considered for the leading role. See more »

Goofs

The door Frank closes when he first backs out of Attaglia's office is closed, but in the next scene it is slightly open and Frank slams it shut on his way out. See more »

Quotes

Leo: Look. I said fuckin' look at 'im! Look at what happened to ya friend 'cause you gotta go against the way the things go down. You treat what I try to do for you like shit? You don't wanna work for me, what's wrong with you? And then, you carry a piece, in my house! You one of those burned-out demolished wackos in the joint? You're scary, because you don't give a fuck. But don't come onto me now with your jailhouse bullshit 'cause you are not that guy, dont'chu get it, you prick? You got a home, ...
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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 »


Soundtracks

Confrontation
(uncredited)
Written by Craig Safan
Played during the last scene and the end credits
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Michael Mann's Masterpiece
16 February 2001 | by eibon09See all my reviews

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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