Thursday, August 27, 2009

Michael Mann's Thief..

I finally made a point to see Michael Mann's debut feature, Thief, starring James Caan, the kindly old theater owner from Last Action Hero, and Tangerine Dream. Caan plays Frank, an expert safecracker who learned everything from his buddy and mentor, Willie Nelson, who is locked away in the big house. Frank doesn't take shit from anybody, and he lets you know it. His right hand man is Barry, played by John Belushi (K-9). Together they take big scores like it's no thing, because they are just that good at safecracking. Frank meets a pretty dame who he likes a lot and nothing can possibly go wrong.

Of course, nobody can shine as brightly as Frank does in the underground world of thief-ery without being noticed by the top brass of organized crime. Leo the Mafia Boss (Robert Prosky, Last Action Hero) recruits Frank to work directly for him, which (as you may expect from a brash hothead like every character that James Caan has ever played) sorta conflicts with his lone wolf tendencies.

Anyway, I'm not going to ruin the good stuff, but shit goes down like you might expect shit to go down in a Michael Mann flick, that is, blood, treachery, and slammin synth beats. As I mentioned before, Tangerine Dream is one of the stars of the film. They do some of their best work here. Don't go in expecting to be blown away though, as from what I hear the soundtrack is one of the things people hate most about this movie. It's an acquired taste, to be sure, but I go crazy for it. You just have to put yourself in the mindstate of 1981. Do drugs, if you have to.

Speaking of the time period, Michael Mann's direction is so advanced for '81. The extreme close-up zooms into the inner workings of safe locks is just cool as any of the wild tricks David Fincher has done, years before he had even considered that he might one day direct a Madonna video. The extreme darks of Mann's nighttime shots, the glowing city lights, you can totally see why he would eventually begin to work exclusively with digital cameras. I can't imagine seeing this movie when it first came out. My mind would have been blown.

So anyway, Thief gets my highest recommendation. If you don't like bad-ass shit, don't see this movie.

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