Not Necessarily Noir Film Festival 2010: Thief Review And Trailer

Michael Mann‘s 1981 debut film Thief, regardless of its simple one-worded title, is ultimately a film about many things. It is as much a heist film, as it is a tragic melodrama.  It is as much a love story, as it is a story about being loyal to both yourself and your employers.  It is as much about blowing other people’s brains out, as it is blowing one’s life away.

Quite a fantastic accomplishment, considering its text-book story-telling formula used of introducing a character, giving the character a love interest and a personality in which to relate to – even if he is the anti-hero – and then giving him a conflict to which he must resolve.  Pretty basic, wouldn’t you say?  Well, not so much.

What makes this film stand out as anything but basic is James Caan‘s ability to completely own a greatly written scene and Michael Mann’s ability to both write and direct one.  Caan plays the tormented and complex ex-con, Frank, who has an exceptional talent for breaking and entering, then fleeing scot-free with millions of dollars worth of jewels.  It is in these theft scenes that Mann’s style truly shines, as he takes his time revealing to us the authenticity of breaking a safe and how much time and labor are actually involved.   But where Mann’s true brilliance emerges is in having the story center around a man who is revealed to us through a prison story he tells his first date.  He tells her a story of having to lose everything and not care about anything in order to ultimately come on top, which raises the question of what it means to actually come on top and win in life.  It does not matter if you are a crook, a doctor, a teacher, a grocer, whatever you are and whatever code of conduct you live by, this seemingly simple story of a thief carries much weight in the greater meaning of it all.

In the hands of Michael Mann, taking on such an important question is handled with such great care and would be the running motif in films to come, such as The Insider, Heat, Public Enemies and even The Last of the Mohicans.

Thief is not just a great Michael Mann film, it is a great film in general.

Show times for Thief:

Tuesday, Aug 31 7:30pm @ The Roxie (3117 16th Street)

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