I am the last person in the world that you wanna f*ck with!
Before Heat, before The Last of the Mohicans, before Manhunter, master filmmaker Michael Mann graduated from his small screen Miami Vice origins with the strong directorial debut, Thief.Based on a 70s semi-autobiographical novel by a real-life jewel thief, the story follows the character of tough ex-con and career thief Frank, who lives his life by a series of unbreakable rules. With a bar and a car dealership operating as fronts for his criminal work, everything appears to be in place, but Frank wants something more to his life than just pulling scores; he wants a family.With that in mind, he concentrates his efforts on convincing his girlfriend Jessie to take things seriously. But when his regular fence gets into trouble with some mob-affiliated villains, Frank finds himself drawn into a job that he doesn’t really want to do, for people that he doesn’t really want to work with. Will he ever get out?
Boasting all of the distinctive style and flavour that Mann would perfect over the course of his later productions, Thief is a simple but striking beast, featuring one of James Caan's most distinctive and impressive performances in the lead role. Sure, it’s a testing ground, allowing the director to play in a bigger arena than he’d been previously used to with his small-screen stuff, to try out the actors that he would later become bigger players in his later work, and, sure, not all of it shines with the same finesse and consummate professionalism that he would later exhibit, but it’s still a Mann feature, through and through. The wider shots and different cameras allow him to dabble in shadows and neon lighting, mood shots and perfectly-centred stand-offs. It’s all, undoubtedly, pure Mann, right down to the distinctive score from Tangerine Dream.
Watching Thief, you can see all the classic Mann elements that would later give rise to some of the greatest moments in film history.
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