Thief shows that if you think you can trust a master criminal, you’re probably wrong.
Frank (James Caan) gets involved in a deal that goes down badly, and the wrong guy has his money.
In trying to resolve the situation, he gets involved with Leo (Robert Prosky), making his feature-length movie debut in this film as does Dennis Farina, John Kapelos and William Petersen). Also making their first appearance is James Belushi, part of a great cast on display, as one of Frank’s bank-robbing buddies, Barry.
Leo tells him they’re planning a new job where there are five alarms in the building that can be triggered, but they can only figure out four of them so far. There are other obstacles to overcome, but the enjoyment comes in the interplay between the cast and the tension that builds as they go about their nefarious business, as well as when the cops intervene.
Scared man: “I know I will. It’s an awesome film!”
The cast also includes Tuesday Weld as Frank’s new beau, Jessie, although why she sticks with him is anyone’s guess as the first date starts off even worse than any of mine, since they end up shouting at each other in a diner.
Willie Nelson also pops up as Okla, an old acquaintance who is in jail. He isn’t in the film a great deal, but he certainly makes his mark. When asked by Frank if he should lie to his new girlfriend Jessie, Okla replies prophetically, “Lie to no-one. If they’re somebody close to you, you’re gonna ruin it with a lie. And if they’re a stranger, who the fuck are they you gotta lie to?”
It might sound daft of me to say, but Thief is very “’80s”. It’s like living in the world of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which is where I’d like to go after I die. There’s also a glorious soundtrack from Tangerine Dream – and, in fact, the soundtrack is so powerful and omnipresent, it’s almost like another principal character!
The film is in its original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high defintion and for a movie which is 34 years old, it looks fantastic. That’s down to the sterling work of a director-approved 4K transfer. Since Blu-ray discs are presented in 1080p, which is 2K, that means I will very much be looking forward to the day when (a) I have a 4K TV, and (b) Arrow distribute a 4K version of this film when the industry behind Blu-ray technology makes the 4K Blu-ray format a reality. It’s coming, but since we’d all need new Blu-ray players, it’s a likelihood that digital distributor will be the way forward at that point. Anything on view that may look less than perfect will be down to the filming process and nothing to do with any errors in this new transfer. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Sound-wise, the film is in a new DTS 5.1, again approved by Michael Mann, and remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm 4-track magnetic audio stems. It’s not exactly a special FX film, but as mentioned, Tangerine Dream’s score is so powerful and there’s neat touches, even if quite standard by modern standards, of atmospherics such as rain dropping in all the speakers. And now, as I’ve put the film on again just to remind myself of the score, I want to watch it again in full as the score reverberates around the room, transporting me back to the ’80s and making me long for those days again. I was only 9 when Thief was released but in the early to mid ’80s, I enjoyed so much pop music of the day, as well as videogames on my ZX Spectrum.
The extras are as follows:
- The Directors: Michael Mann (59:28): An episode of this series from 2001, which looked at Mann’s career in detail, with interviews coming from many big names including Thief’s James Belushi and William Petersen, plus others who have worked with him including Madeleine Stowe (The Last Of The Mohicans), and Heat’s Diane Venora and Jon Voight. In fact, I can still remember seeing Heat in the cinema – almost three hours long and a major cinematic treat.
This extra is split into four chapters and I love this sort of extra as it’s a one-of-a-kind thing where you’ll never see it any other way.
- Stolen Dreams (14:32): A new interview about the film with James Caan, filmed in September last year, and I like his speculation about what might’ve happened after the ending. Chances are, he’s right.
- Hollywood USA: James Caan (24:38): Like The Directors, this is an episode of French TV series Ciné regards, shot shortly after filming had wrapped on Thief.
- The Art of the Heist (66:29): An in-depth study of the movie and Michael Mann’s career, by author and critic F.X. Feeney (bloody great name!), including how Mann was simply savvy enough to spend £5 in London to register Michael Mann Productions, and then could tout that name about here and there, including getting his work visa extended. I see Feeney also shares my views on how much the score plays a great part, too.
This extra was filmed in October 2014 and has eight chapters, the last being reversed for the credits, so Feeney expertly breaks the whole thing down into seven distinct, labelled, chunks and each of them gives a great individual insight.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:53): This is a good trailer, but I still think it gives away some key points so I’d recommend watching the film first, if you haven’t already.
- Reversible cover: It features original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm.
- Booket: A 16-page booklet featuring new writing about the film by Brad Stevens, “Stealing Back To The Thief”, written last year.
- Audio commentary: from Michael Mann and James Caan, who clearly sound like they’re enjoying themselves very much.
Note that the version available on this disc is the director’s cut, running 125 minutes. If you’re a completist, you can also buy the above-linked Limited Edition Slipcase Blu-ray which includes a 1080p presentation of the original 122-minute theatrical cut with original uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM audio and an isolated music and effects track on the theatrical cut. Personally, I think the version on this disc which I’ve reviewed is the way to go so I’d be perfectly happy with this one.
The menu contains clips from the film set to the theme, there are subtitles in English and the standard 12 chapters.
Running time: 125 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: June 1st 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Michael Mann
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer and Ronnie Caan
Screenplay: Michael Mann (based on the novel “The Home Invaders” by Frank Hohimer)
Music: Tangerine Dream
Frank: James Caan
Jessie: Tuesday Weld
Okla: Willie Nelson
Barry: James Belushi
Leo: Robert Prosky
Attaglia: Tom Signorelli
Carl: Dennis Farina
Nick: Nick Nickeas
Mitch: WR [Bill] Brown
Guido: Norm Tobin
Urizzi: John Santucci
Boreksco: Gavin MacFadyen
Ancell: Chuck Adamson
Martello: Sam Cirone
Bukowski: Spero Anast
Detective D. Simpson: Walter Scott
Large Detective in Suit: Sam T Louis
Joseph: William LaValley
Paula: Lora Staley
Joe Gags: Hal Frank
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.