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Frank is an expert professional thief. His speciality is high-value diamond jobs. After a long stint in prison, he gets out having a very concrete idea of what he wants out of life – a wife, kids, and nice home. As soon as he is able to achieve this goal, by doing what he does best, he intends to retire and become a model citizen. In an effort to accelerate this process, he reluctantly signs on with a big-time gangster to take down a huge score. Unfortunately, Frank's obsession with his vision of the “American Dream” allows him to put aside his natural wariness and mistrust when making the deal for this final job. Thus he becomes ensnared and robbed of his own freedom, independence, and ultimate dream!
For more about Thief and the Thief Blu-ray release, see Thief Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 18, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky, Tom Signorelli
Director: Michael Mann (I)
» See full cast & crew
Thief Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 18, 2013
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award, Michael Mann's "Thief" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an original theatrical trailer for the film; exclusive new video interview with the American director; exclusive new video interview with actor James Caan; new video interview with Johannes Schmoelling, former member of Tangerine Dream; and audio commentary with director Michael Mann and James Caan. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick James. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Frank (James Caan, The Godfather, The Killer Elite), the main protagonist in Michael Mann's directorial debut, is a single professional thief living in Chicago who has wasted a good portion of his life serving a sentence in Joliet Correctional Center. Because he does not like feeling lonely, he is always on the move.
Barry (James Belushi, Red Heat) is Frank's trusted partner. The two have worked together for years and managed to put some money aside, but not enough to retire and enjoy life. And they both know it, which is why they have just completed a risky job that will solve all of their financial problems.
The name of the man that will make Frank and Barry's retirement possible is Gags (Hal Frank, Class). He is a dealer with powerful friends who has agreed to trade Frank and Barry's stolen diamonds for cash. But shortly after Frank hands the diamonds to Gags, he 'accidentally' jumps through his window and the cash goes missing.
With a bit of luck, Frank discovers that the cash might have ended up in the office of a connected crook (Tom Sgnorelli, Death of a Salesman). Initially, the crook refuses to discuss the cash, but later on agrees to return it in the presence of Leo (Robert Prosky, The Natural, Hoffa), a big-time crime boss who knows how to help a man get rich quick.
Soon after, Frank meets Leo and rather reluctantly agrees to do a six-figure job for him. While preparing for it, Frank also convinces Jessie (Tuesday Weld, The Cincinnati Kid, Once Upon a Time in America), a beautiful single girl whom he has been trying to seriously date, that they have a future together. They quickly move in a brand new house and with Leo's help even adopt a baby boy, but then an unexpected event forces Frank to reconsider his retirement plan.
There are a couple of reasons why Mann's Thief is unlike any other American crime film from the early '80s. One is the fact that it was shot in Chicago, the director's hometown. In this film the city is the only other character whose style rivals that of Caan's enigmatic thief. During the day it could look calm and friendly, but at night it becomes bleak and dangerous. The heavy neon lights are captured in such a way that each time they emerge on the screen the intensity immediately goes up a notch. In other words, Mann knew exactly where to go, what to look for and how to shoot it to convince the viewer that like the thief the city also has multiple identities.
Some real troublemakers from Chicago were chosen to play important characters. Real thieves were also invited to serve as technical consultants during the shooting of the key break-ins. Mann also insisted that real tools are used in these sequences. Even the big vault Caan's crew worked on was real. Needless to say, Thief is not only an incredibly stylish film, but a remarkably realistic one as well.
The bold electronic soundtrack is what glues everything together. Created by the legendary German electro/ambient group Tangerine Dream, the music does not just enhance the terrific atmosphere, it is actually used in very specific ways to create dimensionality which the visuals alone could not have possibly introduced. There are also entire sequences where the music (or the unique industrial sounds) essentially replaces what would have been traditional dialog.
Thief Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Michael Mann's Thief arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. Director Michael Mann's original 35mm answer print was used as a color reference, and Mann supervised and approved the entire transfer. The additional Willie Dixon fisherman scene was taken from a 35mm internegative made from a 35mm print. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management, jitter, and flicker.
The original stereo soundtrack was remastered to 5.1 surround at 24-bit from 35mm 4-track magnetic audio stems, and approved by Mann. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.
Transfer supervisors: Lee Kline, Michael Mann.
Colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern VideoFilm, Burbank."
Restored in 4K and approved by Michael Mann, the director's cut of Thief looks incredibly beautiful on Blu-ray. In fact, the improvements in image quality are so dramatic that I feel very comfortable stating that those who have previously seen Thief only on the non-anamorphic R1 DVD MGM produced years ago will experience an entirely new film. The nighttime footage, in particular, looks spectacular. The flat and murky visuals from the DVD release are replaced by dark but lush visuals with some hugely atmospheric neon lights that give the film a very stylish neo-noir look. Additionally, now it is a lot easier to appreciate the camera's very precise moves. (See the opening sequence where the camera slowly moves between the two buildings and see how light and shadow are treated). Contrast levels are stable. Sharpness levels occasionally fluctuate, but the minor fluctuations are part of the film's visual design. Color reproduction is excellent. In fact, there is an entirely new range of cold colors that are crucial for the film's neo-noir look. There are absolutely no traces of problematic degraining corrections. Also, sharpening adjustments have not been applied. Unsurprisingly, from start to finish the film has a very solid organic look. Finally, the film also looks very healthy. There are no debris, scratches, cuts, stains, or warps to report in this review. All in all, I am convinced that some older fans of Thief will be quite overwhelmed by this newly restored director's cut of the film. It is that beautiful. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Thief Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
As far as I am concerned, the improvements in the audio department are even more impressive than those in the video department. The depth and fluidity of legendary electro/ambient group Tangerine Dream's atmospheric soundtrack are so much better that entire sections of the film now have a completely different vibe. Also, the shootouts and the casual conversations sound fantastic. For the record, there are absolutely no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Thief Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Thief Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Michael Mann's directorial debut Thief, one of the most atmospheric gangster films from the early '80s, has been given a complete makeover and the final result is indeed enormously impressive. The Blu-ray release also comes with three new video interviews conducted by Criterion earlier this year. Make sure to see the one with ex-Tangerine Dream member Johannes Schmoelling. It is truly illuminating. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Thief Blu-ray, News and Updates
• New Clip: James Caan on Thief - February 13, 2014
The Criterion Collection has released a short clip from an exclusive video interview with actor James Caan which is included on the Blu-ray release of Michael Mann's classic crime film Thief (1981).
• This Week on Blu-ray: January 14-21 - January 12, 2014
For the week of January 14th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment streets Riddick on Blu-ray. Other titles include Fox's Enough Said, the docudrama The Butler, Lionsgate's You're Next, The Spectacular Now, and Pride and Prejudice releases, and Criterion's Rififi ...
• Criterion Announces January Titles - October 16, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced six titles for Blu-ray release in January: On January 7th, the studio will release Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. On January 14th, it will release Jules Dassin's Rififi and Michael Mann's Thief. On January 21, it will release ...
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