AuteurTheory’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’ve never liked a Michael Mann film, but I have such a good feeling about this one I picked up the Criterion BluRay. I also hear it might have been an influence on Drive, so let’s find out...
Oh god yes. Gimme that rain soaked neon synth city shit all day.
I was like “how is Jon Belushi so thin?” Then I remembered Jim Belushi exists.
OK, our protagonist is not a good guy. I mean, I knew he’s a criminal, but he’s also a bad guy outside of that. Maybe we feel some sympathy when we hear his history. Is it enough? Do we accept him as a person, despite his monumental flaws? Sometimes if we spend enough time with a character, we start to empathize with them or root for them regardless of their immoral behavior. I guess we get Stockholm Syndrome.
I don’t usually concern myself with plot, but the story is gripping; reminding me of the great crime films by Friedkin or Lumet. Mann takes the gritty attitude of the 70s New York crime film era, and mixes in an ultra 80s aesthetic that I love. Like, imagine if Ridley Scott’s Black Rain was actually a good movie. You’d get something like this.
I know this is about James Caan’s thief, but for me, this is Robert Prosky’s movie. He’s incredibly charismatic and threatening as the crime boss. Holy shit. What a performance. Ignored by the Academy, of course. He doesn’t get much screen time, but still...
The entire third act reminds me of Drive, and I can easily see how Refn was inspired by Thief, if indeed that is the case. I’m also going to be watching The Driver, which is supposed to be another guide for Refn.
This was great, and I’m going to reassess and revisit Mann’s other work.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go download the soundtrack. That song at the finale is a banger.