Thief

1981

Thief

Critics Consensus

Thief is an invigorating cut of neon noir - proudly pulpy, steeped in authenticity, and powered by a swaggering James Caan at the peak of his charisma.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 30

81%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,197
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Movie Info

In Thief, James Caan plays Frank, a professional jewel thief who wants to marry Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and settle down into a normal life. In order to achieve his dream of a family, Frank--who is used to working solo--has to align himself with a crime boss named Leo (Robert Prosky), who will help him gain the money he needs to begin his domestic life. Frank plans to retire after the heist, yet he finds himself indebted to Leo and he struggles to break free. Thief is the first feature film from director Michael Mann and it seethes with his stylish, atmospheric direction. Though his cool approach may put off some viewers, it's a distinctive and effective story-telling approach, and Caan's performance ranks among his very best, making Thief a crime movie like few others. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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News & Interviews for Thief

Critic Reviews for Thief

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (2)

  • A slick Chicago crime-drama with a well-developed sense of pathos running throughout.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A philosophical thriller filled with modernist cool.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's one of those films where you feel the authority right away: This movie knows its characters, knows its story, and knows exactly how it wants to tell us about them.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Mr. Mann may well become a very good theatrical film maker but, among other things, he's going to have to learn how to edit himself, to resist the temptation to allow dialogue that is colorful to turn, all of a sudden, into deep, abiding purple.

    Aug 30, 2004 | Rating: 2/5
  • Thief aspires to be something more than a made-for-television movie that will be forgotten as soon as it's over, but it doesn't achieve that. [Full Review in Spanish]

    Aug 20, 2019 | Full Review…
  • On the one hand, it looks and feels like a high-gloss fantasy... But on the other, it's as gritty a crime picture as they come, dead set on getting even the smallest touches right. The combination makes for a movie unlike any other.

    Oct 18, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Thief

  • Mar 17, 2015
    Mann's feature debut is a gritty mass of machismo and kinetic energy, and James Caan turns in one of his greatest performances.
    Kase V Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2014
    The youthful Mann uses James Caan to his full capacity in this introduction to his moody and hard hitting directors' style. A hidden gem.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 30, 2012
    Frank: Look, you wanna pinch me then pinch me... I'll be out in ten minutes. If not, GET THE FUCK OFF MY CAR!  "Tonight, his take home pay is $410,000... tax free." Michael Mann's debut, Thief, is a stylish and intelligent heist thriller. There's a lot of cool stuff going on in Thief. It's one of those crime classics that have been forgotten because of movies like Heat. Thief is a great film in its own right. Mann showed the success he would be right from the get go. The film doesn't mess around, and has one of the single coolest end sequences I have ever seen. I'll admit, the film did take a little while to suck me in, but once it did I was enamored by it.  Frank is a professional thief. He breaks into safes for diamonds and cash only. He's always wanted to retire to a normal life with a wife and kid. He thinks he has the chance when a crime boss asks him to join up for a big score. Frank thinks he can take the cash and settle down to a nice life. The boss has slightly different plans for Frank which may interfere with him getting exactly what he's always wanted.  The heist scenes are really good, and Mann doesn't pump up the cliché of fighting against a clock and the police like the normal heist film will do. Thief isn't your standard heist film at all. Standard heist films go through a formula normally leading up to the final heist scene which will pretty much end the movie. Not this one. There's a lot of time after the final heist, and the after effects are the best part of the movie hands down.  The acting is left in the capable hands of James Caan. He is at his best in Thief. He plays a stubborn criminal to perfection. His performance in this one may be my favorite single performance from him ever. He struts his criminal character around with a sense of anger and cool, that just makes you pay attention to every little detail of his performance.  This is kind of a forgotten film in the grand scheme of cinema, but it is one you should really seek out. It is loads better than 98% of the crime thrillers out there. It has an accomplished director(now) at the helm and a terrific actor in the lead. There isn't much not to like about it. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a masterpiece or anything, but it is one that will surely blow you away. Well, well worth a watch.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • May 07, 2012
    Michael Mann's first theatrical film set the bar high for what would become a very illustrious career. The film is beautifully shot, well acted, stylistic, atmospheric, appropriately moody, and always engrossing. In short, it's what Michael Mann does best. You can see all of his tendencies on display here, and to great effect, save perhaps his sense of action, which he would later improve on drastically. On its own merits, Thief is a truly great film, a smart heist/crime drama, done in a fashion that would be imitated by many. It's not his masterpiece (Heat), but it's a must see for all Mann fans. 4.5/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer

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