Thief. So great. This was the first time I’d noticed a couple cameos from Manhunter stars: Dennis Farina (Manhunter’s Jack Crawford) as a henchman and William Petersen (profiler Will Graham) as a bouncer at the bar where Caan is late for his date. A few other nice camera/editing odds and ends I appreciated this time around:

  • During the diamond exchange in the diner, I like how he starts unwrapping one of the packages, then pauses, and the camera cuts away when the waitress arrives.
  • After Caan barges into the office, the blocking follows the shifting of power. Caan moves from the visitor’s chair in the owner’s office, then parallel to the desk, then moves behind the desk and forces the owner into the guest’s chair.
  • When using a tracking device to misdirect the cops, the camera tells the story as it zooms past three or four cars, then fixes on the bus.
  • The wide shots of the monolithic safe at the big heist me of similar shots at the El Paso bank in For a Few Dollars More.
  • Just about 99% of the movie is urban, but the final setting is in comfortable suburbia (the sort of life that Caan has been working toward). The climactic scene at the mob boss’s house is nearly silent up until the last moments, and then there’s a crane up into the trees…

One last bit of awesomeness is Willie Nelson’s character, Okla, dispensing some perfect life advice:

Lie to no one. If there’s somebody close to you, you’ll ruin it with a lie. If they’re a stranger, who the fuck are they you gotta lie to them?


Thief. Hell yeah. Fun stuff. Some good writing here and a great Tangerine Dream soundtrack. I love how the camera kind of zones out every now and then and the movie is all form (like the welding climax). I also like that this thief isn’t an MI-style sneaky ninja techno-athlete (or some kind of capoeira breakdancer coughOcean’sTwelvecough). He’s an old man. He’s got a limp. He wants to have a wife and kid. He uses power saws and hammers and welding torches. I forget how cool James Caan is. And Willie Nelson is in it! You can definitely see the influence on Drive.

Here’s my rankings for Michael Mann films I’ve seen so far. Strong, strong work:

  1. Heat
  2. Thief (not far behind)
  3. Manhunter
  4. The Last of the Mohicans
  5. Collateral