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Thief (1981)

Director: Michael Mann
Cast overview: James Caan, Tuesday Weld
Running time: 122 minutes

Thief was a film I thought I'd like, given that thrillers represent my favourite film genre, but I found this to be really flat and not particularly engaging. James Caan is a talented actor, no doubt, and I'm a fan of his, but I think he was having to carry this film alone a lot of the time. Having said that, his performance was the best of the lot, which I don't think is saying much. I thought Jim Belushi was very poor, for example.

It never feels like it properly gets going, and when it does become more interesting it's too late as much of what's just happened has already passed you by. Many criticised Tangerine Dream's score - however, I thought that was one of the most interesting elements of the film. The music actually isn't bad - not brilliant, but it's reasonable. The problem was that the music often came in appropriate places, such as during speech, and it all becomes a jumbled, unsatisfying mess. Another problem I had was the dialogue itself - it often doesn't seem to lead anywhere, and half the time it's so mumbled and difficult to hear that it becomes difficult to follow what's happening.

Willie Nelson did a good job, come to think of it, and I think the film could have benefited from his being used more, but again there's too little of the good stuff in this film and too much bad. The mob boss wasn't bad either, if noticeably cliched. But there's not a great deal here to set this apart from lesser crime films, I don't think - it's formulaic and pretty uninteresting most of the time, often bordering on dull. The ending was great - but again it doesn't save the rest of the film.

Thief isn't terrible - I've seen worse films - but it's not particularly good either. Caan was OK, and so were a couple of others in the cast, but unfortunately I didn't find this engaging or very interesting. The music isn't bad but is used at inappropriate times, and I don't agree with some who claim that Mann gave an assured directorial debut here. Surprised as well because I'd been looking forward to watching this for a while and thought I would enjoy it. But there you go, all about opinions...

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 **** are they you gotta lie to them?

Leo: Look. I said ****in' 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 ****? 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 ****. But don't come onto me now with your jailhouse ******** 'cause you are not that guy, dont'chu get it, you prick? You got a home, car, businesses, family, n' I own the paper on ya whole ****in' life. I'll put ya **** wife on the street to be ****ed in the ass by niggers and Puerto Ricans. Ya kids mine because I bought 'it. You got 'im on loan, he is leased, you are renting him. I'll whack out ya whole family. People'll be eatin' 'em in their lunch tomorrow in their Wimpyburgers and not know it. You get paid what I say. You do what I say, I run you, there is no discussion. I want, you work, until you are burned-out, you are busted, or you're dead... you get it? You got responsibilities - tighten up n' do it. Clean this mess up, get 'im outta here. Back to work, Frank.

Frank: What are you doing in your life that is so terrific?

After The Godfather (1972), this is James Caan's favorite film of his own. He has stated that his monologue in the diner is the scene he is most proud of in his career.

The burglary tools used throughout the film (such as the hydraulic drill used in the opening sequence) were not props, but actual tools which the actors were trained to use. The tools were supplied by actual thieves who served as technical consultants on the film, principally John Santucci, who also portrays Sgt. Urizzi on screen.

A late starter, Robert Prosky was already 50-years-old when he appeared in this, his film debut.