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By Jim Gay

Thief's dark noir spaces are tinged with the neon palette that has become the trademark of director Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Heat). This was his first theatrical film, and all the elements that characterize his later style (and this is a very stylistic film) are dominant. Equal parts grit and glamour, the story is simple. Frank (James Caan) is a lone-wolf jewel thief who was, in his words, brought up "by the state." In prison he was apprenticed to a master thief, played by Willie Nelson. When Frank's successful career comes to the attention of an avuncular syndicate boss (Robert Prosky), Frank is offered (and accepts against his better judgment) a deal that should allow him to retire and enjoy the family life he covets. But the deal sours, and Frank is left to decide what his nature truly is, lone wolf or family man. Thief melds its jazzy visual style with heightened realism: the jewel thief's tools of the trade are authentic, up to the 8,000 degree thermal lance used to cut through a nearly impregnable safe. Some of the bit parts are played by real-life, highly successful jewel thieves, who acted as consultants. And their presence informs the superb dialogue, as every word rings true. In one long, engrossing scene, James Caan gradually persuades the woman he wants to start a family with (Tuesday Weld in one of her most affecting performances) that they should be together. The film was photographed beautifully by Donald Thorin and further emboldened by the driving rhythms of Tangerine Dream. The DVD contains a very funny commentary track by the director and James Caan.


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Buy this VHS movie from! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Michael Mann

Stars: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky, Tom Signorelli, Dennis Farina

Released: March 27, 1981

Availability: DVD VHS

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