Thief

Thief

A lot changes in three years. Some people grow a taste for jazz, others begin baking bread, I divorced my wife, started smoking meth and hitch hiking across the U.S. to perform my tom waits cover act in various CiCi’s pizzas on empty tuesday nights. But in every case, time slips by us all. As I was drawn back to Michael Mann’s first major film, Thief, between it’s tranquil landscapes, tense yet provocative tangerine dream soundtrack, signature precision to detail, and violent climactic boiling over, I noticed that amongst many things this motif of time was a key piece in the story I’ve come to better appreciate the second time around. In many ways, Thief is the purest example of a Michael Mann film. Across Manhunter (my first), Heat, and anything with Michael Mann’s sweaty, twitching hands involved in the executive seat we see over and over his world of driven professionals, with an unspoken almost respect of each other’s craft morals aside. But only in Thief do we see this precision and unwavering motivation play out in an almost nihilistic fashion. James Cann is an artist whose skill makes him alienated by many and appreciated by few, and being an ex-con his only goal is to assemble, methodically, like his mindset, a family and lifestyle he feels would make him like any average joe, and when this is threatened we see him turn that precision and attention to detail in the most violent, fatalistic way possible against those who inevitably wrong him. Between these two ends, the high and lows are captured with such intensity in only a way Mann’s view can capture, focusing silently on the image and letting the music, in this case the absolute fucking knockout Tangerine Dream, enrapture you further within the cold Chicago landscape. Things i focused on initially, like how much of an anti-hero Cann plays, the unconventional arch of his journey, and why a top tier chicago mob boss would threaten a guy only to live in a surburban home protected by nobody, aren’t discounted but really are grains of sand compared to the emotional intensity this film portrays, and i appreciate the ending a lot more which i was surprised to see Mann and Cann differ on in the commentary. Thief is a film that maybe now might be mired for how much it’s inspired, between other crime films and even games like GTA (yes i said it go fuck yourself), but in its unwaveringly sterile atmosphere, that almost feels like if Cronenberg did crime instead of Scanners, it is pure, unfiltered Michael Mann and i love it.

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