Thief (1981)

Thief (1981), directed by Michael Mann.

He spent his youth in prison, surviving by being unattached and not caring whether he lived or died. Now he's out, a successful businessman and master diamond thief in a hurry. He wants a life: wife, child, everything he missed.

That's the tragic flaw: attachments make you vulnerable. The problem with crime is the people you have to deal with, and when they try to use his "life" as leverage to control him, he has to burn it all down and go back to what he was before. And kill those who made him do it.

A stunning first film from Michael Mann. You seldom see the mechanics of safe-breaking so intimately displayed. (Maybe in Rififi (1955)). Their consulting criminals provided the real tools of the trade and real cops and crooks appear in the film, often switching character roles.

A small criticism: the shootouts feature Peckinpah-style slow motion violence. For me, that's interesting in one or two movies, but an irritating gimmick thereafter.

First film for Robert Prosky, Jim Belushi, William Petersen and Dennis Farina.

Mann wanted a blues soundtrack but got Tangerine Dream instead, which I think is fortuitous. I complain about 80s synthesizer scores but here it's done right. Today the music would be rap-influenced, urban and inclining to violence. Instead we get a driving, soaring, techo anthem that celebrates men, their tools, and their stealing. I had the soundtrack album long ago, and other TD music from that era was similar. It got a "Razzie" nomination that year for worst music; I don't know where those people are coming from sometimes.

Great Chicago locations; filmmakers love the Green Mill jazz club.

Criterion Blu-ray with a fond, spontaneous commentary track by the director, Caan and I'm not sure who else; I can't always tell who's talking. Caan says the long diner conversation with Tuesday Weld is his best performance.

Is this a different cut? I don't remember the scene with the fisherman after the opening heist.