Thief (1981)

Thief (1981)

“The deal is over. I want my end, and I’m out.”

A professional safecracker (James Caan) becomes involved with the Mafia, but soon realizes that his dreams for early retirement with his wife (Tuesday Weld) and child have been put on hold.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Ex-Cons
  • Gangsters and Mafia
  • Heists
  • James Caan Films
  • Revenge
  • Thieves and Criminals
  • Tuesday Weld Films
  • Willie Nelson Films

Michael Mann’s directorial debut features exciting action sequences, a fascinating glimpse at high-level safecracking, and a powerhouse performance by James Caan.

Unfortunately, however, it remains a less-than-satisfactory film, due primarily to a lack of vested interest in Caan’s character. He comes across as bull-headed rather than sympathetic, and his unwise decision to get involved with the Mob shows that he isn’t really ready to come clean. The moral of the film is crystal-clear: a connection with the Mafia is for life; don’t try to delude yourself otherwise.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • James Caan as the thief longing to go straight after a lifetime of crime
  • Some fascinating, lengthy scenes of big-scale safecracking

  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No, though fans of Michael Mann will undoubtedly want to see his directorial debut.


One thought on “Thief (1981)

  1. In total agreement with the spot-on assessment here. Not a must, but Mann fans will want to see it – and, since it accomplishes what it sets out to do, it’s not a waste of time. A particular plus is the authentic, slang-filled dialogue.

    Special mention should be made of:
    a) A lengthy scene between Caan and Tuesday Weld, in which he convinces her to stay with him. It’s interesting watching the two of them together – even if Weld unfortunately seems miscast in a part that’s also under-written.

    b) Mob boss Prosky’s ultimatum speech to Caan – in words that couldn’t possibly be more direct.

    Bit of humor: when Caan and Prosky are first talking out in the open, one of Prosky’s flunkies is taking aim on Caan above a billboard hawking soda pop – we see the ad’s slogan…’Here’s To Fun’.

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