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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

In the hospital scene, James Caan decided to stare coldly at J. Jay Saunders, who played the doctor. This really frightened Saunders, and his reaction in the scene is genuine. See more »

Goofs

When Frank arrives outside with Barry at the L & A Plating company, it is overcast. When Frank arrives in Attaglia's office only a minute later, the weather outside is completely different. See more »

Quotes

Frank: Look, you wanna pinch me then pinch me... I'll be out in 5 minutes. If not, GET THA FUCK OFF MY CAR!
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 The Insider (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Confrontation
(uncredited)
Written by Craig Safan
Played during the last scene and the end credits
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
You are making big profits from my work, my risk, my sweat.
12 September 2015 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Thief is written and directed by Michael Mann, who adapts the screenplay form the novel "The Home Invaders" written by Frank Hohimer. It stars James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky, James Belushi and Willie Nelson. Music is by Tangerine Dream and cinematography by Donald Thorin.

Frank (Caan) is a tough ex-con and expert jewel thief. He's working his way out to a normal life, but after being lured to a big job for the mob, he finds plans on both sides severely altered.

For his first full length theatrical feature, Michael Mann announced himself to the film world with some distinction, and in the process showed everyone what style of film making makes him tick. Thief is a film of stylised grit, visually, thematically and narratively. Set and filmed in Chicago, Mann, aided by Thorin, shoots the story through pure neo-noir filters.

At nighttime it is all a beautifully neon drenched haze, where the streets shimmer with dampness, a dampness brought about by the rain and god knows what else! By day there's a sweaty hue, a feeling that the heat is well and truly on, that even in daylight Frank isn't safe, his dreams may be a touch too far to reach. And no matter what the scene or scenario, Tangerine Dream are laying over the top a throbbing pulse beat, it's like The Warriors trying to get back to Coney Island, the music has a sense of dread about it, that danger is at every corner.

This part of Chicago stinks, it's a vile and corrupt place. Dirty cops everywhere, underworld criminals ruling the roost - Hell! You can even buy a baby if you want one. Is it any wonder that Frank just wants to settle down with a wife and child, to walk barefooted in the sea, to have domesticity? But Frank, as smart, tough and savvy as he is, seems to thrive on the edge of things, with Mann giving him earthy and honest dialogue to engage us with, marking him out as an identifiable every man protagonist who just happens to be an exceptional thief.

Mann's attention to detail is on show straight away, none more so than with the two key safe cracking jobs that are undertaken. Using genuine jewel thieves as technical advisers on the film, these sequences ooze realism, from the tools used, the pre-planning and the execution of the takes, it smacks of reality and does justice to the genuine feel of the characterisations brought alive by the superb cast. And finally Mann delivers a finale of ambiguity, a noir shaded piece of abruptness, an ending that perfectly fits the whole production. 9/10


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