Thief

mann

Michael Mann‘s Thief  is like a ticking-clock thriller without an actual ticking clock. Frank (James Caan) is in a rush to make up for lost time, to achieve the life he wants, and is represented by his photo. A part of the film’s conflict is that Frank’s life of crime will lead to an inevitable blowup. As Mann would say, he’s a rat in a maze. That idea has sneaked its way into Mann’s later work, from Collateral to Public Enemies to Heat, as his characters are inexorably drawn towards an inevitable outcome for their actions. But it all started with Thief, which has now been released on Blu-ray by Criterion. From the hypnotic sounds of Tangerine Dream‘s score to the sumptuous beauty of Donald E. Thorin‘s cinematography, this 4K restoration of this landmark crime film has made Mann’s “rat in a maze” seem even more immersive. Despite his busy work on an untitled thriller (aka Cyber) Mann spoke with us about his classic directorial debut, offering his thoughts on its style, the virtues of editing as “the ultimate kind of writing” and the unparalleled intimacy of digital cinematography in a post-celluloid age.

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Quick, name the best film directed by Michael Mann about career criminals. Yeah, you probably just blurted out Heat without giving it a second thought, and you’d be about 58,396 miles from being alone. However, you’d be wrong. Before you start going off about “matter of opinion” and “how can he say these words” repeat these after me. “Heat is NOT, I repeat, NOT, Michael Mann’s best film.” There, now doesn’t that feel loads better? Oh, what’s that? you want to know what is Michael Mann’s best film? Let’s go back to 1981 where Mann offered up his second feature film, Thief, a film about a career criminal trying for his one last score – you can forgive this particular film for that cliche. It was the catalyst for all these other heist films using it that runs over the surface of rainy, Chicago streets. It’s cool. It’s energetic. It features one of James Caan‘s best performances. So, here, in honor of all the inspiration the film brings to Refn’s Drive, we offer up what Mann and Caan had to say about this milestone-of-cool film in their respective careers. You can even go watch Heat afterwards. I’ll forgive, but remember those words.

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