Friday, November 28, 2014

Thief (1981)

Director: Michael Mann
Writers:  Frank Hohimer, Michael Mann
Cast:       James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky, James Belushi

Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safe-cracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him.

A thief doing one last job before retirement scenario has been done to death in cinema and if you trace the lineage, maybe you will conclude that Michael Mann's feature film debut 'Thief' to be the big daddy. Mann worked five years in television drama before making this film and you can see many of his trademarks already in there-meticulous attention to detail, groundbreaking soundtracks, exquisite night cinematography. All the tools that are shown being used to commit the robbery are real ones and the actors were trained to do it. I think the only other film I have seen James Caan in is Godfather, and he himself rates Thief along with the former as his best performances. His mannerisms are quite similar in both and maybe it is characteristic to him. Soundtrack for the film was done by Tangerine Dreams, who also did Risky Business which I saw quite recently.

While watching Thief, you will realize how much it influenced Ryan Gosling starrer 'Drive'. Both Caan and Gosling portrays characters who are basically very similar even though they both give it very different identities due to their mannerisms. The famous dinner scene monologue lays bare the character in Thief and it very well explains his motivation behind the actions he take at the end. Apart from James Caan's great central performance, you also get some great performances in very small roles-his fatherly prison friend, his bar man, an Asian waiter who is there in only one scene etc. One part in Michael Mann's collateral that I thought was very corny was Jamie Foxx's stupid post card. Well, it turns out that it was a homage to Thief which also had a central character motivating himself with something like that. Now I cannot wait to re-watch 'Heat' to pick up other references he might have placed in it. 

It is a difficult film to describe as it is very experiential and is a must watch Neo-Noir genre classic. Up there with Micheal Mann's best who occupies a unique place i Hollywood being a genre onto himself. If you go by decades I have always considered 80s to be the weakest for English language films. I might have to reconsider that position as I catch up with some 80s classics and Thief certainly classifies as one.

Rating: 5/5