Thief (1981)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

USA, 1981Screen Story and Screenplay by , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .  

James Caan owns a diner and a used car dealership, but those are just fronts for his true passion: late at night he loves to drill his way into vaults and steal precious items like diamonds. After a successful heist puts him in the way of a big-time gangster (), Caan is enticed to work for this mobster because of the perks being dangled in front of him. He has set up house with Tuesday Weld and they want to adopt a child, and with the money and connections coming their way they can do this and retire to relative peace forever. Debuting director Michael Mann’s carefully poring over the movement of metallic tools, and bathing in the warm glow of melting steel, means that happiness might be too much to ask for, which is probably why we see Caan’s fortunes turn and the details of his dreams taken away from him one element at a time. Spare on dialogue and long on powerful imagery, this is a potent and mesmerizing thriller whose style feels fresh and original despite the fact that Mann has copied himself a number of times since.

The Criterion Collection:  #691

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition


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