39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2003
This has got to be one of the best crime / thriller movies ever made. James Caan is a superb actor, who when given the right role is in a class of his own. This film is his finest hour and he delivers a moving performance as the main character. Caan plays Frank who is an expert safe cracker with dreams of retiring and starting a family with his lady played by Tuesday Weld. He foolishly agrees to work for the mob headed by evil Leo (Robert Prosky), safecracking to order in the belief that after 2 or 3 big scores he can leave with a nice nest egg with which to start his family. When Frank decides it's time to move on and leave his life of crime behind him he soon discovers that it's extremely difficult to walk away when the big time crooks don't want to see their meal ticket leave. This film slowly builds up to a final, bloody showdown with the tension almost becoming unbearable as Frank realises that he is going to have to take drastic action if he truly wants out of his shady profession. Superb.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2015
Michael Mann's feature film debut is a neon drenched noir that showcases the usual plot threads of the genre, outlaws treading the fine line between professionalism and survival that plays host to key set pieces cumulates in a tragic and bleak conclusion (in this case being safe break ins using modified power tools that makes the viewer marvel at the ingenuity and the method of use and a finale that will leave audiences applauding but divided on whether it's a happy ending or not) Like most neon noirs Thief is an exercise of style and cinematic craftsmanship, and with Michael Mann at the helm Thief goes that extra mile depicting the cynical world the antihero inhabits. Backed up by a career best performance by Caan, whose performance tries to balance style with characterisation, and a synthesized Tangerine Dream score that will long stick out (it's a major shame that an official soundtrack containing all the music hasn't been released) Overall Thief is a must see for any film fan and a vital purchase for Mann fans.
As for the blu ray. Let's get the obvious out of the way first; if you own a copy of Thief on DVD, then bin it (or use it as a coaster) because Thief is a marvel on blu-ray. Having previously owned the Criterion edition which had a 4K resolution remaster that was breathtaking in picture and sound, I can safely say that the Arrow edition uses the same print. The Director's Cut (which is on disc one) is equally as good as the Criterion edition. The blue colour filters are the same, and the sharpness in some of the scenes are identical with the Criterion edition. What does differ however is the evident grain on the Arrow version, although this is a very minor note and should not dissuade you from purchasing the Arrow edition. Sound is also the same, the dialogue was crisp, and the score was beautifully delivered. However where the two editions do differ is in extras, and if it's extras you want, than the Arrow edition is the one to go for. The main extra is the original theatrical cut that is included on the second disc; although there isn't much of a difference between the two cuts, the theatrical cut has not been given the same resotration treatment as the Director's Cut. The picture is okay and the sound (2.0 PCM only) is okay also. Informative and retrospective, Arrow have taken the time to issue extras that are both enlightening and entertaining. One such example is the 2014 interview with James Caan who talks about his experiences on the film. A similar extra exists on the Criterion edition, but it is way too short and barely tells anything at all. Not to mention the slipcase and changeable covers are a real treat.
Overall this is a must have for any film fan, and for those of you who, like me, imported the Criterion edition, then you sell it as quickly as you can and get this wonderful edition.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 12 September 2001
This is Michael Mann's first effort, and also one of his best. James Caan is excellent as the hardened thief that does not give in to anyone. The "you have to be willing to walk out on everything in 60 seconds" theme will be used by Mann in other movies (notably "Heat"). The acting is good all around and so is the soundtrack by TAngerine Dream. Definitely one for the must watch list
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2006
Old school Michael Mann at his best. This is a slow burner but fascinating to watch. The climax is brutal and shocking. Caan exudes all things Mann-ish, the prototype for Petersen and Cruise, the essential Mann man - mean, ruthless, wrestling with a fragile humanity, the broken idealist in a world of pain. Tangerine dream soundtrack is class too.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2014
Professional thief Frank(James Cann)has spent four years cultivating a rep as a top independent safe breaker but when he comes to the notice of crimelord Leo(Robert Prosky)his carefully constructed way of working is thrown into jeopardy as is his tentative relationship with Jessie(Tuesday Weld)and his plans for the future.
Michael Mann's first movie for the cinema(following his acclaimed tv movie The Jericho Mile)is to my mind still his best.Here we see his Hawksian preoccupations with codes of honour and strict professionalism debuted for the first time(he would return to them in offerings such as Manhunter, Heat and his period tv show,the under-rated Crime Story) and brilliantly essayed in James Caan's wonderful performance as the taciturn Frank, a man making up for lost time.Tuesday Weld and Robert Prosky offer superb supporting performances as for that matter does James Belushi as Frank's right hand man and look closely for Dennis Farina as one of Leo's heavies and William Petersen in a very small bit as a bartender.
Beautifully nuanced character study cum thriller, Thief disappeared quickly in 1981 but acquired a devoted following thanks in part to Tangarine's hypnotic score which underscores the abstraction of Frank's existance as he skulks in between the shadows of everyday life.Acting this good places the film on a pedestal that modern films can only dream of. Today's Hollywood comedians..i mean actors would not cut the mustard in a film of such finesse.
Coming on the coat tails as a last hurrah to golden period of the70s, Thief is one of the best films of the 80s and should be better known.
Criterion's beautiful new region A locked digital transfer,approved by Mann, is presented in it's org aspect ratio of 1:85:1 created in 4k res from the org 35mm camera negative and is such an improvement on the existing stan def versions that is like watching a diiferent film.
The opening nightshots and the famous pan down the fire escapes into the night-time alleys of downtown Chicago are stuNning in their clarity and so it goes for the film as a whole.
You will need a multi region blu ray player to play Thief. Extras are the usual booklet and new interviews with Mann, Caan(disarmingly direct as always) and Johannes Schmoelling(of Tangarine dream)
on 18 May 2015
Thief (aka Violent Streets) Special Edition 2 x Blu-ray Review
Thief (Two Disc Edition) 1981 Directed by Michael Mann, Starring James Caan, James Belushi and Tuesday Weld. Arrow Blu-ray release date: 2nd February 2015
Many have described Michael Mann's Thief as a film of ‘style’ and ‘substance’. Whilst I would agree it’s a film of substance, I believe his more familiar ‘stylistic’ approach came a little later. I've always seen Thief as a much more grounded film, sure it’s gritty, violent and nice on the eye, but it also has a heart as well as being a smart and intelligent film. It has a good story, good characters and it doesn't pull any punches. Don’t expect the regular clichés of car chases and routine gun play, Thief doesn't have time for that, instead it skips straight to the core and chooses to remains there.
Thief is set in rainy Chicago, James Caan stars as the reticent Frank, a jewel thief and tradesman of uncut diamonds who specialises in safe-cracking. He keeps his business tight and heads a crew of three. He’s already served time and has spent four years building a legitimate front as the owner of a used car business. However, Frank has a weakness, he craves the regular comforts of a wife and family and this to some degree makes him vulnerable. He eventually settles down with girlfriend Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and both look towards adopting a child. Frank is looking to make that one last big score in order to begin living a legitimate life with Jessie. Frank then comes into contact with Leo (Robert Prosky), a powerful gangster who Frank agrees to work for with no long term ties. But when Frank decides to call it a day, Leo wants to keep him in his employment.
Arrow’s double Blu-ray edition of Thief brings together two versions (125/123 minutes) of Michael Mann’s film, the original theatrical cut and his approved Criterion cut. With everything considered, there isn’t too much of a difference between them in terms of content. Mann does have a reputation as a ‘tweaker’, and at times lacks the ability to leave his cuts alone. The Criterion cut that saw Mann heavily involved, has undergone some minor adjustments such as frame removals, speed adjustments and music re-edits but nothing that ultimately changes the story. However, the major differences occur through the technical adjustments made by Mann. To its advantage, the Criterion version of course benefits from its all new 4K film transfer and an uncompressed 5.1 DTS-HD Audio Master. But Mann also decided to submit Thief to an all-new colour grading, and this is where I believe the film fails to a certain degree. Whilst Mann’s original theatrical cut retains a nice, perfectly natural colour with well-defined skin tones, the Criterion cut seems to contain a distinct blue tint, a cool tone that for me is a little distracting. I should also point out that the original theatrical cut contains the original uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM audio. So again, Arrow has provided a choice, even if this special package containing both versions of the film is strictly limited to just 3000 units.
That aside, this package also comes with a wealth of impressive bonus material. The theatrical cut comes with an Optional isolated music and effects track, whist the Criterion version also includes an audio commentary by writer-director Michael Mann and actor James Caan.
Also included is The Directors: Michael Mann, an excellent 2001 documentary on the filmmaker, containing interviews with Mann, James Belushi, William Petersen, Jon Voight and many more.
Stolen Dreams is an all new interview with James Caan, and filmed exclusively for Arrow’s Blu-ray release.
Hollywood USA: James Caan is an episode of the French TV series Ciné regards devoted to the actor which was filmed shortly after the filming of Thief and captures Caan in a relaxed and humorous mood whilst he is interviewed on board a boat.
The Art of the Heist is a fascinating examination of Thief with writer and critic F.X. Feeney, author of the Taschen volume on Michael Mann, and of course there is the original theatrical trailer.
Arrows reversible sleeve features the striking original artwork and newly commissioned artwork by Maarko Phntm. The Illustrated collector’s booklet also features new writing on the film by Brad Stevens.
Thief remains a standout eighties crime thriller, a film which paved the way for Michael Mann and his later urban thrillers such as Heat and Collateral and has become essential viewing for fans of the crime genre. Region B, Rating: 18, Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Darren Allison, Cinema Retro magazine
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2012
Mann's first feature film abused and forgotten upon release then abused by MGM with a lousy non-anamorphic transfer in the early days of DVD. I have read some lukewarm reviews for this outstanding film's Optimum release. All untrue.. as this is struck from a new HD transfer.No it's not perfect, no it's not the director's cut which omits 4 minutes not crucial but detail and colors pop. This is a bare bones release, film only with the original 2 channel dolby stereo track heard in theaters back in 1981. All in all this is a must for the transfer alone.