Director: Michael Mann
Synopsis: Michael Mann’s Manhunter is no longer on Netflix at the time my of writing this. So what’s the point of even keeping your Netflix account active anymore? Along with the other write-ups my lovely AE cohorts have shared with you (it’s a damn treasure trove), Mann’s directorial debut Thief is still available for your viewing pleasure. And by pleasure, I mean this is a perfect movie if you just want to unwind and take in a slow character piece about a man shying away from a life of crime. It’s a familiar trope, and one that Mann touches on in numerous other projects, but it has an irrefutable sense of style here.
Overview: Thief has the benefit of being one of Mann’s simplest movies to follow. Characters move from scene to scene with purpose and vigor as the night lights of Chicago adding a thick atmosphere around our titular thief. When I describe this movie as “atmospheric,” I mean this movie is almost entirely atmosphere. You can understand most of what’s going on through simple body language and expert staging so don’t worry about it being too abstract (more on that in a moment).
Enter James Caan’s Frank, a jewel thief who doesn’t mind doing small-scale quality jobs as long as he keeps a low profile. But when Frank discovers their fence being pushed out a window, Frank and his partner end up working with a more expensive organization that costs them more exposure and higher risks on the job. Meanwhile, Frank is busy trying to settle down and start a family and help one of his best friends get out of prison. The cops are on his trail too. Needless to say, Frank has his work cut out for him.
Scored by Tangerine Dream, the synth heavy soundtrack has a dreamlike quality to it which carries you through the two hour runtime. It’s not as euphoric as Manhunter’s soundtrack but what is?
The staples of Mann are all embedded in the DNA of Thief. From the dead-serious professional outlying society to the abstract use of framing, it’s an appropriate entry point for people curious as to many have such deep admiration for the works of this director.
Featured Image: United Artists