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You have probably seen movies like this before - usually on a Saturday afternoon on the local independent television station (if you live in DC think Channel 20, New Yorkers should think Channel 11). It's an early eighties thriller starring some an actor you recognize, but didn't realize he made more than just one film. This is the kind of film that my Dad would like. Good action. Tough bad guys. And James Caan kicking some butt.
Caan stars as Frank, a professional thief who wants to get out of the business. He has found a great gal, Jessie (Tuesday Weld), who doesn't know what he does for a living and his idol, Okla (Willie Nelson), is dying in jail. This makes Frank realize that he wants more out of life, so he looks for one last big score.
Out of nowhere (how convenient), a big crime boss, Leo (Robert Prosky), makes an offer he can't refuse. Do a couple of lucrative and easy jobs for him and walk away clean because the law and the bad guys are all in his back pocket.
Is it too good to believe? Will Leo cheat Frank?
The story isn't an original one, but that's OK. Director/writer Michael Mann makes it stand above its formulaic appearance. Mann even falls into the trap of extending the movie beyond its natural ending - about one hour and forty minutes in. However, the ending jumps off the screen like a John Woo movie with balletic violence and a driving soundtrack. It's the best part of the film! It may be the first time I felt the director was right to add some extra footage to stretch the film out. Thanks.
Caan is unappreciated as an actor. Despite starring in such films as The Godfather, Brian's Song and Misery (and he did some great work in This is My Father), Caan is never mentioned in the same breath as Pacino or DeNiro. In Thief, he avoids the temptation to make his character too sympathetic and sappy. He stays true to the fact that this guy is one bad man. No crying scenes. No moments of self-doubt. Just a desire for revenge and money.
I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Okla and Frank (and less James Belushi, especially scenes of this whale on he beach), but if you like James Caan, don't miss this one.
Directed and written by Michael Mann
James Caan . Frank
Tuesday Weld .Jessie
Willie Nelson .. Okla
James Belushi . Barry
Robert Prosky Leo
Dennis Farina . Carl
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