REVIEW: Thief (1981) 2015 Blu-Ray Release – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Thief (1981) 2015 Blu-Ray Release


Runtime: TBA
Rated: R/18
What To Expect: The ultimate Thief home release

Michael Mann hasn’t made a good movie in a long time and hasn’t made a great movie in 20 years.  Heat is probably my favourite movie ever made, so that’s a long way back to see Mann at his best.  His debut movie, Thief, is better than any movie he has made since Heat.  It’s a manly movie nobody should miss and since two Blu-Ray versions have been released in the past 12 months (this is the second, due January 26th), there is no better time to check it out.  This one has been put out there by Arrow Video, a distributor with a growing rep for giving underrated classics the love they deserve.

To recap, career criminal James Caan is an expert safe cracker who gets wound deeper into the criminal under world as the mob tempts him to come work for them. This is one of those ‘one last job’ deals, but from 1981, Mann was one of the first doing it.  James Caan wants to settle down with his wife while returning a favour to his mentor (Willie Nelson).  Of course, Michael Mann is in his element with this sort of thing.  Some scenes tell us heaps without a single line of dialogue, other scenes use dialogue with maximum directness and efficiency.  I love that about Michael Mann movies, every conversation matters and every action scene counts towards something.

I’m sure some won’t dig Thief as much as others.  It hasn’t aged all that well, even with Mann’s trademark slick and stylish mimimalism.  I think the soundtrack is the biggest offender, very proto-electric.  But Thief is a great story above any of that and Mann’s direction is a cut above.  A brilliant slice of 1980s, it even has James Belushi as a sidekick and the debut of Dennis Farani.  And what about that final shoot out, fuelled by a boss electric guitar solo?  Fuck me, you could watch it over and over.

To talk specs, Arrow say: “This new HD master was provided by The Criterion Collection and delivered by MGM via Hollywood Classics. The 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 added Willie Dixon fisherman scene was sourced from a 35mm interpositive made from a print.”  Thief here looks surely about as good as is technically possible.  It has new depth to its scenes and new clarity, without losing grain or resorting to hideous DNR.  The audio quality has also been remastered.  This is important – my first few times watching this movie, the dialogue was often mumbled and, as I said above, it often contributes to the plot.  Now you can hear everything.

When this Blu-Ray is released, two cuts will come on the dual layered disc.  The original theatrical cut and a 4k remastered director’s cut.  The latter is not on the press release discs, so we’ll pretty much have to see how that one turns out on release day.  I’ve never seen the director’s cut of this movie, I’m excited.  Elsewhere there are new features such as an hour long documentary on Michael Mann and a new interview with James Caan.  I’m going to give this an eight, but since I hear that the director’s cut has superior colour grading – not to mention being just that, a director’s cut, I’m sure the final release will be ‘9’ worthy.