Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "Thief" (1981)

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Director: Michael Mann
Year: 1981
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

A professional thief and safe-cracker named Frank (James Caan) is interested in leading a normal life. After his regular fence turns up dead, Frank gets involved in a business agreement with a big time gangster named Leo (Robert Prosky) in the hopes he can score a big enough job to get out of the business. Getting involved with Leo brings some unwanted heat and may turn out to be more trouble than he bargained for. 

"Thief" is a solid, slow-burning crime thriller, which is the specialty of director Michael Mann. In his prime, he was able to put out these really interesting and involving films with awesome protagonists to captivate audiences, and though he has slipped a lot as a director recently, it's nice to go back and revisit his work when he was just starting his career. James Caan, no stranger to these types of roles, plays Frank, who is an anti-hero in that he is a criminal who is almost entirely concerned with his own self interest, but we respect his desire to get out of the crime business. Caan plays Frank in such a way that it seems like it was a tailor-made part for him. He oozes cool and can stay calm when needed, but also gets angry, too, and Caan has all the mannerisms to play both sides of the coin. He is surrounded by gangsters and crooked cops, which make him seem the most good out of this group of bad guys. This is what makes us want to root for him. Frank is an interesting and hard-headed character who does things his way and gives no concessions. Unlike other films of the same genre, "Thief" is not an over-the-top heist movie full of grand car chases and elaborate plans with many twists and turns, but rather, a stark, down-to-earth, pretty straightforward look at master criminals and how they do their jobs. The type of equipment Frank uses throughout the movie is the actual equipment safe-crackers would use in real life. This being a slow burning thriller, it is also slow moving film which can certainly feel like it is dragging, yet it still contains enough excitement and drama to manage to keep you interested and intrigued most of the time. There is a rather intense graphically violent shootout towards the end of the film. It's usually in these gun-play situations that Michael Mann does his best work, so we would have liked to see a bit more of this throughout the movie, but it was early on in his career, and after seeing "Blackhat," well, maybe every movie he makes doesn't need that sort of action. If you dig intensity, "Thief" has plenty of it, it just takes a while to get there.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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