Monday, March 18, 2013
MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Thief
Expectations can really make or break a film. Going into my viewing of 1981's "Thief", I had read that "Drive" is very similar to it. Naturally, I expected a hyper-stylized 80s action flick. Unfortunately, the films didn't feel all that similar to me, so I was initially underwhelmed.
Going from the opening scene alone, it actually does promise lots of pulpy fun. The moody nighttime setting is on the money and it's got that 80s synth pop soundtrack too. We meet our protagonist Frank (played by James Caan) a mysterious man much like Ryan Gosling's Driver. While he runs a bar and a car dealership, his makes his living mainly as a skilled safecracker(hence the film's title). He handles the role well, bringing a more mature characterization than Gosling's youthful swagger. It's no less compelling however, as Caan has is own unique type of charisma.
The plot of the film focuses on his last job for the mafia, a final heist that will allow him to retire and settle down. As this story pans out, the film plays more like a low-key drama rather than the action thriller I was expecting. Especially for an 80s film, it felt curiously restrained. As a result, I struggled to connect with it. This wasn't because it was boring per se, but it didn't live up to the type of film I wanted it to be.
Although I wasn't as taken with the early bulk of the film, it really does pick up towards the end. The last 1/2 hour in particular delivers an exciting conclusion to the prior events of the film. I suspect that if I wasn't expecting another "Drive", I would have appreciated the entirety of the film more.
There really is quite a lot to like here, as the supporting actors fit their character tropes very well (specifically Tuesday Weld as the love interest and Robert Prosky as the tough mafia boss) and Michael Mann gives good direction. The screenplay isn't exactly intellectual, nor is it completely campy and vapid. It's just a good, simple script that provides a showcase for an impressive directorial debut. After seeing this film, it's easy to understand how Mann eventually developed his signature style to become one of our most vital and influential directors.