If you like movies about safe cracking and haven't seen this then do yourself a favor and get it immediately. This film is well paced yet every frame drips with action even in its slowest moments. Thief was Michael Mann's directorial debut, and I think most film makers should be so damn lucky as to make a powerhouse like this at any point in their career. I also find the film notable for other reasons, such as: James Caan being a super badass, Jim Belushi's feature film debut (It's odd to see him in a non comedic role but he pulls it off really well), and Jerry Bruckheimer helped produce it making it one of the only things (if not THE only thing) he was involved with that is seriously worth a damn.
See the trailer Below:
Plot Summary: Frank (Caan) is a real stand up guy. During the day he runs a used car dealership, and drops by his bar to see how things are going. You know, normal guy stuff. But during the night Frank is a master safe cracker. He's very particular about what he steals (uncut stones ONLY!) and doesn't pay off the cops or crime syndicates. Long story short he's his own man and doesn't take any bullshit from anyone whatsoever. That is until $185,000 of his money falls out a window and an offer he thinks he can't refuse proves too tempting to walk away from...
This film is dark, taught, and gritty. The dialogue is short and direct- when you deal in hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen diamonds, you can't afford to be misunderstood. The main heist scene alone is worth watching this film for. The best part of this movie is everything is believable because real life safe crackers were technical advisers to the film and even appear in it- ironically as cops! As I was saying this film is really well paced. The scores are lightning quick, while the scenes between Frank and his new wife Jessie (played by Tuesday Weld) or his father figure Oklan (played by Willy Nelson) are slower and more somber but no less important or in any way detracting from the whole package.
As anybody who has seen bits and chunks of James Caan's filmography knows he can be a MAJOR badass, and I think he really has it down to a tee here. You can see that he is a guy who really means business, and what research he did to get the ex con still on the hustle part down so well and so very believable I can only begin guess at. All I can tell you is he really isn't the kind of guy I would ever want to cross, because you know you aren't going to get a second chance. He talks tough and he is tough and you can tell he's one inch away from delivering a knuckle sandwich anytime someone gives him the wrong answer.
Check it out this display of Frank's supreme badassery:
I'll save any of the scenes where he tells the cops to put it where the monkey sticks the nuts for when you watch it because it's seriously off the hook and rife with Chicagoan tough guy talk. Back on subject: The cops are sleazy, and want nothing more than to turn a blind eye and skim off the top of the scores going down all around. The syndicate boss is by far the worst. He's a man who will just as soon skin you alive as he will take you on to do a job, and the guy just makes me throw up in my my mouth a little every time he cracks a grin.. He's such a grease ball but you know he's so powerful that nobody could ever touch him. It's basically one big minefield of underworld sleaze, bribery, and extortion.
Usually safe cracker movies are full of Hollywood slick asswipes with movie star lifestyles but Thief is about real dudes. I'd imagine that if I were a safe cracker I'd just do what Frank is doing, running a business or two and lying low until my next big score comes along. One would think any show off flashing his cash around like some movies do would be in the slammer before he took an uncle Benjamin out of his money clip. The smaller and more normal on the outside the less likely it is that anyone will catch on, right? This movie doesn't have ANY of that bullshit. These guys just want to do what they are good at and get bread on the side. They're normal people who's true talent is highly illegal, but like any serious hard drug how can you ever simply walk away and say "just this one, this is my last score and I'm out"?
I can't find a single thing I don't like about this movie, and I manage to notice something new each and every time I watch it. The DVD edition shown here is great, and features a great commentary track by Michael Mann and James Caan which provides some cool behind the scenes tidbits throughout. A film of this caliber doesn't come along very often, and I am honestly shocked that this film remains relatively unknown and never quite seems to get the recognition it so very sorely deserves. I seriously cannot praise this film or any of its elements enough. Do yourself a favor and go pick it up.