Action cinema is often guilty of ‘style over substance’; Michael Bay, the late Tony Scott and John Woo were accused of it regularly, but hundreds of millions in profit from their films proved that action films are a lucrative and thriving business. Somewhere in the mix is what I call ‘a thinking man’s’ action film maker: Michael Mann. Style over substance will never be tagged to one of his neo noir masterpieces. With every new film he makes he is technically more modern, but no less still as muscular and vital. Every story about a broken man striving to live through violence or tragedy, be it John Dillinger in ‘Public Enemies’, Neil McCauley in ‘Heat’, or Will Graham in ‘Manhunter’. I feel more manly every time I watch a ‘Mann’ film.
In 1981 he made ‘Thief’, which has served as a template for everything he’s done since and influenced cinema in an unshakeable manner; just look at Nicholas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’, almost a homage to this film. Thief’ is an audio and visual feast and could be considered his best work. Arrow Videos Blu-ray release of ‘Thief’ is the definitive version of this film, incredibly presented in a 4k remaster with 5.1 DTS HD sound…it could be one of the best Blu-rays you will buy this year.
James Caan is Frank a man who is looking for a way out of his criminal life as a master jewel thief, his partner Barry (James Belushi) and his new girl (Tuesday Weld) in tow. Frank becomes embroiled with the Chicago Mafia, led by a menacing Leo (Robert Prosky; who deserves a mention for playing so brilliantly against type) who force him to work ‘scores’ and prevent Frank from breaking free from his past. Caan’s performances in the 70’s & 80’s were mostly strong and violent types and in this role he lends the character believable warmth between the scenes of explosive aggression. His best performance easily. Caan speaks in the brilliant new interview ‘Stolen Dreams’ on the disk about his love for this film,and it’s still his favourite part. Caan’s delivery of a monologue about his time in prison is one of my favourite moments in film. Mann’s Blue–hued world is scored perfectly by Tangerine Dream and this Blu-ray is the purest presentation available to man(n)…Sorry!
In addition to the stunning visual 1080P (4k HD) and audio (DTS-HD 5.1) remaster are special features to die for.
Limited edition slipcase (only 3000 units!!!) featuring two versions of the film, The Directors cut and original theatrical cut. Both in stunning 1080p.
An isolated music score is a real treat, (Theatrical cut only) Tangerine Dream’s score is one for the ages.
The audio commentary by Michael Mann & James Caan is warm and nostalgic; both men clearly hold Thief high as their best work and provide a full and detailed account of a film they made over 30 years ago!
‘The Directors’ is a 2001 documentary charting Michael Mann’s career from early work in TV, through his rise to the mainstream, up until his work at the time of The Insider & Ali. You do get a good idea of just how important Mann has been in TV and film, literally creating 80’s cool with Miami Vice, breaking free of his shackles with cult films like ‘The Keep’ and even the odd sweeping epic with ‘Last of the Mohicans’. Talking heads from most of his major players chip in with the love too. A nice little documentary!
A vintage episode of French TV’s series ‘Hollywood USA’ is included focusing on James Caan and is a nice nostalgic look at his already incredible career up to the release of Thief.
‘The art of the heist’ is a short commentary over some of the films scenes by critic and writer F X Feeney; the author of the Taschen (essential reading for film buffs) volume on Michael Mann. He talks about Mann’s use of style film techniques. It may feel like a lecture but you will literally be nodding your head in agreeance to every word he says!
My favourite feature is the new interview with James Caan ‘Stolen Dreams’, filmed last year and is a wonderfully warm and interesting discussion about the film, its production and impact on his and Mann’s Career. James Caan is 74 now and still says this was his most loved role. I wanted to reach in and shake the man’s hand, yes Mr Caan; you are STILL a massive legend.
Add the Theatrical trailer, new art work by Maarko Phntm and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Brad Stevens.
Another essential release from Arrow and undoubtedly the best version of this film available anywhere. Ever. Bravo.
Review by Ramrod from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films. Thief will be released on February 2nd 2015.