Right from that stunning opening shot of a full moon rising over an alley with silhouettes of fire escapes, you know you're in a neo-noir that is going to be something more than the usual tale of gangsters.
In Thief James Caan plays a highly skilled safe-cracker with a dream of retirement into the white-picket-fence world of a family man. He's not very intelligent, & never even ponders becoming an honest man without first getting rich from crime. He gets the wife by begging a beautiful woman (Tuesday Weld) with nothing better to do to marry him, & since she cannot bare children, he buys one with the help of a crime godfather. He is dead serious about his goal to become a suburban family man, no matter how it is arranged.
After one big score he'll be ready to vanish into the world of honest nuclear families, but of course all films about "the last score" are really about one crime too many. This goes beyond the usual in that this thief, though amoral & of limited intellect, does have a sweet & singleminded dream, & criminal though he is, we feel what a tragedy it will be if his folly ends in the only way that seems possible.
His final rampage is reminscent of the best classic Yakuza films of the chivalrous type out of Japan, wherein a sad-eyed gambler goes on a final march toward a one-against-all battle fueled by outrage. I was left in a breathless state by the climax, & seriously felt that I had just seen a film truly deserving the status of a classic, though seemingly little known.
A simple but occasionally subtle film rendered street-eloquent by an effective script & top-form performances, Thief made me want to see much more vintage James Caan.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl