Thief (1981)

R   |    |  Action, Crime, Drama


Thief (1981) Poster

A former ace safe-cracker is trying to go straight--if he can score one last big heist for the mob.


7.4/10
25,438


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  • James Caan in Thief (1981)
  • Michael Mann and Donald E. Thorin in Thief (1981)
  • James Caan and Tuesday Weld in Thief (1981)
  • Tuesday Weld in Thief (1981)
  • James Caan in Thief (1981)
  • James Caan in Thief (1981)

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Reviews & Commentary

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4 May 2010 | SomeUselessGeek
9
| When James Caan was allowed to be real!
This is one of the few Michael Mann films I can stand to watch. Caan is at his absolute peak here, with his intensity just blazing off the screen. The supporting cast is excellent, the edits are perfect, everything just clicks.

As has been noted by other reviewers, the technical aspects of this film are right on the money. All the locations are really there (or were at one time) and the settings didn't have to be faked up. Yes, Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland is really like this, folks.

I try to watch this thing every few years. Should buy a DVD, I guess, and insert it into my permanent circular film buffer.

Highly, highly recommended.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The vault that Frank breaks into in the opening scene was a real vault, purchased for $10,000, specifically so that James Caan could break into it, using the real tools and techniques supplied by John Santucci.


Quotes

Frank: Your criteria are so far up your ass, they can't see daylight! This is bullshit!


Goofs

As Frank reloads his pistol in the final sequence, the slide of the weapon is forward, not locked back, as would be normal in a Colt semi-automatic, magazine-fed pistol. But if you count the shots before the reload, he only fired five shots, not seven, so the slide would be forward, since there was at least one round left in the magazine.


Alternate Versions

In 1995, Thief was released in a new LaserDisc set billed as the 'Special Director's Edition', which was carried over to the film's 1998 DVD release. For 16 years, this was the only home video release of the film in the US until Criterion's 2014 edition. Differences between this version and the theatrical version are as follows: 1. There is a new scene with Wille Dixon on the bank on the Chicago river. Scene takes place directly after Caan's car drives away from the opening heist. A slow dissolve has been added that transitions to this new scene (normally the film cuts directly to Frank at the car lot) 2. Beach Scene - Mann removed a slow-motion shot of Tuesday Weld walking with the baby. First she is smiling, then looks over at Frank with a sort of melancholy expression. The whole shot is only about 7 seconds long -- but it is nowhere to be found in the "Special Director's Edition". In order to make up for the lost seconds, Mann make two editorial choices that end up hurting the original music/visual flow of the film. a) In the theatrical cut, we clearly see Caan light up the cigarette, then he nods his head a few times -- then on the music beat change -- cut to the Beach Scene. Perfect match of Tangerine Dream's music and visual cut. b) In the Special Director's Edition -- Mann cuts a few seconds from Caan's victory nod -- then cuts to the Beach Scene *before* the music cue change. Then Mann just slows down the images of the waves (to make up for the time lost) before the camera pans up to Frank. No music-visual cut transition. 3. House Exploding - when comparing the Theatrical and Director's Edition, there seems to be better clarity in the explosion. Screen appears to blow-out to white in the Director's Edition that looks different. This is only very slight and probably only noticeable if you watch both side by side. 4. Confrontation Shootout - Mann used a video post-production technique to speed up several shots/frames during the final shootout. a) When Frank shoots Attaglia, the body appears to hit the ground faster. b) When Frank is shot by Carl (Dennis Farina), and you can see the window break on the car and Frank falls to the ground -- all this has been sped up. c) When Frank shoots Carl, he falls back (in three cuts) into the bushes.


Soundtracks

Final Confrontation
(uncredited)
Written by
Craig Safan
Performed by Tangerine Dream
Played during the last scene and the end credits

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Action | Crime | Drama | Thriller

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