05th Feb2015

‘Thief’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky, Tom Signorelli, Dennis Farina, Nick Nickeas, W.R. Brown, Norm Tobin, John Santucci | Written and Directed by Michael Mann


When it comes to Michael Mann the number of movies he’s directed may not be huge, but the impact that they have has been. With the likes of Manhunter, Heat, and The Last of the Mohicans he created memorable movies that have a definite Mann style. Thief, which gets the Arrow Video treatment with this new Blu-ray release, was his first move into major movie making and a fine example of him at his best.

Thief is the story of Frank (James Caan) a professional safecracker who specialises in diamond jobs. Looking for a way out of the business and living his dream of a normal family life he agrees to do a high paying job for big-time gangster Leo (Robert Prosky). As Leo helps Frank gain the parts of his normal life though and the job is complete, he soon realises that escaping the life of a Thief and Leo’s control is not as easy as he would have hope and his dream of a family with his wife Jessie (Tuesday Weld) may be nothing but just that, a dream.

I’ll admit I’m a big fan of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and now having watched Thief I can see where that the inspiration for Drive’s whole style came from. Gosling’s character is very much like Caan’s, they both have full control over their lives where the job they take on is everything, and nothing can get in the way. Things go wrong for the both of them when they allow outside distractions to become a part of it, and this is why fans of Drive who haven’t seen Thief yet should fix that. Caan’s character Frank though is superior in my opinion and while he may not be a likable character you can’t help pity him for taking the risk and losing control all for the dream that is within his grasp.

James Caan plays the character of Frank in a controlled aggressive way, he isn’t a character to like or even respect, he is a crook. Frank is a nihilistic character who has to control everything and he is very insular, he trusts nobody and is very forthright in what he wants (to the point where no is not an acceptable answer). His weakness in Thief is to let loyalties in, to allow himself to be connected to people like Joe, who Robert Prosky plays chillingly and these connections lead to defeat. The casting is perfect, even James Belushi plays a good part which comes as a surprise when you compare it to some of his more recent comedic work.

Michael Mann’s style puts a gritty realistic feel to what we see on the screen, and Thief’s neo-noir style shows that the traits Mann became known for are well-formed in this his first film. Add to that the excellent score by Tangerine Dream and Thief really is a film that is a must see, especially if like me you’ve missed it for all these years. The new 4k film transfer that was approved by Mann looks excellent and there are moments where the extra detail on-screen is very impressive. Special features include a commentary by Michael Mann and James Caan as well as documentaries about the film, director and Caan who features in a new interview about the film. Two cuts of the film are included (theatrical and director’s cut) and the theatrical cut has an optional isolated music and effects track.

Thief is a classic and Arrow Video have given it the treatment it deserves with this release. As somebody who hadn’t seen the film until given this chance I can fully recommend it for people in the same position. Whether it’s just to catch up on a Michael Mann classic or to see a film that has influenced some well-known fan favourites like Drive this release is surely one of the best ways to see the film on the small screen. A must for any fan of heist movies.

***** 5/5

Thief is available on Blu-ray now from Arrow Video.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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