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: Thief (1981)  ( 2463 )
dave jenkins
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« #15 : August 11, 2018, 05:36:12 PM »

BTW I don't understand the first scene where a sniper is aiming at whom? Is he a policeman or a Leo's accomplice? And what is he there for? 7/10
I don't think you're talking about the first scene in the film, which is a safe-cracking scene. Later in the film, Frank goes to meet Leo for the first time to get his money back. He goes apparently alone, which is very dangerous, not knowing whether they are going to honor his request or just kill him. In fact, he isn't alone--Belushi is there, in overwatch mode, ready to fire if the meeting goes bad. It turns out Leo isn't going to pull anything (this time) and the overwatch is unnecessary.



Ya measly skunk! A-campin’ on my trail and lettin’ me do the work an’ then shootin’ me in the back. IN THE BACK!
dave jenkins
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« #16 : August 11, 2018, 06:10:21 PM »

I had seen this in the '80's probably. Yes, the nighttime city scenes are beautiful and so the final heist. But the problem is that it aims higher than it should, as the movie doesn't need Weld and Nelson (oh, the adoption stuff: he's preparing the greatest heist of his life and setting up a family at the same time, sure). Also, the finale is unsatisfactory, as Caan and Belushi should expect the counteroffence and Leo shouldn't give Caan a chance for revenge. Also, the over-corrupted cops are too many to play it safe.
Your objections are sound, but I prefer to overlook such things because the film is more interesting than most heist pictures. This is also one of the few Mann films where characters talk a lot, and what they have to say is actually important to the theme of the picture. By way of example, consider the long monologue Caan lays on Weld in the diner scene. It goes something like this:
Quote
Started with a two-year bit, parole in six months. And then right away I get into a problem with these two guys. They tried to turn me out. So I picked up nine more on a manslaughter  beef.  Some other things. I was 20 when I went in, 31 when I come out. You don’t count months and years. You don’t do time that way.  . . . You gotta forget time. You gotta not give a fuck if you live or die. You gotta get to where nothin’ means nothin’. I’ll tell you a story all about it. Once there was this Captain Morphis, this 300-pound slob. He couldn’t write his name. And he had this crew of 16 or 17 guards and cons. Prison groups, you know? Crews. They would go into these cells and grab these young guys. Uh, gangbang. If a guy puts up a struggle, they beat him half to death and he winds up in the funny farm. Anyway, word comes down that I am next and I do not know what I am supposed to do. I, uh, I am scared. 11:30, 12:00, lights come on. I got this pipe from plumbing and, uh,  I whacked the first guard in the shins. I go through a convict and another convict and—anyway, I get to Morphis, and I whack him across the head twice.  Boom. And then they jump all over me, do a bunch of things. I spent six months in the hospital ward, but Morphis, he is also fucked up real good. Cerebral  hematoma. They pension him out, he can’t walk straight and he dies two years later. Which is a real loss to the planet Earth. Meanwhile, I gotta go back into the mainstream population and I know the minute I hit the yard, I am a dead man. So I hit the yard. So you know what happens? Nothin’. I mean, nothin’ happens. ‘Cause I don’t mean nothin’ to myself. I don’t care about me. I don’t care about . . . nothin’, you know? And then I know from that day that I survive. Because I achieved that mental attitude.
The thing is, Caan is just about to give up his method, because he wants to settle down with Weld and start a family. He thinks his life can change, that he can move on from prison, but in fact he can never really get out. He goes immediately from that scene to a pay phone and makes a deal with Leo, a mistake, as it puts him in the gangster's power. Later he will learn that he will have to re-acquire his I-don't-care-about-me-I-don't-care-about-nothin' attitude in order to fight Leo. That's the meaning of the end of the film: he sends his wife and child away forever and then dynamites his home and businesses. Only then can he turn on Leo and achieve final victory.



Ya measly skunk! A-campin’ on my trail and lettin’ me do the work an’ then shootin’ me in the back. IN THE BACK!
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« #17 : August 11, 2018, 07:30:13 PM »

I had seen this in the '80's probably. Yes, the nighttime city scenes are beautiful and so the final heist. But the problem is that it aims higher than it should, as the movie doesn't need Weld and Nelson (oh, the adoption stuff: he's preparing the greatest heist of his life and setting up a family at the same time, sure). Also, the finale is unsatisfactory, as Caan and Belushi should expect the counteroffence and Leo shouldn't give Caan a chance for revenge. Also, the over-corrupted cops are too many to play it safe. BTW I don't understand the first scene where a sniper is aiming at whom? Is he a policeman or a Leo's accomplice? And what is he there for? 7/10

Good observations.  If I have any gripe about the film its some of the prolonged scenes with Frank and his wife.  The film " Heat" has the same thing going on with it. I thought about Leo letting Frank go.  Leo is very arrogant.  I believe he wanted to enjoy toying with Frank more than anything.  I have no idea about the sniper either.  My thinking it was one of Frank's men at first.   Remember, Frank and the police were working together so if the sniper was from Leo OR the police it didn't matter.  I didn't trust Leo from the start.

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« #18 : August 11, 2018, 07:33:29 PM »

Your objections are sound, but I prefer to overlook such things because the film is more interesting than most heist pictures. This is also one of the few Mann films where characters talk a lot, and what they have to say is actually important to the theme of the picture. By way of example, consider the long monologue Caan lays on Weld in the diner scene. It goes something like this:The thing is, Caan is just about to give up his method, because he wants to settle down with Weld and start a family. He thinks his life can change, that he can move on from prison, but in fact he can never really get out. He goes immediately from that scene to a pay phone and makes a deal with Leo, a mistake, as it puts him in the gangster's power. Later he will learn that he will have to re-acquire his I-don't-care-about-me-I-don't-care-about-nothin' attitude in order to fight Leo. That's the meaning of the end of the film: he sends his wife and child away forever and then dynamites his home and businesses. Only then can he turn on Leo and achieve final victory.

Excellent write up, particularly your explanation of the final scenes and why Frank did what he did.  I hadn't figured out a opinion yet on why he did that but I believe you are correct with that explanation.

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« #19 : August 11, 2018, 09:04:31 PM »

Also, it is left unexplained how the three safecrackers can reach the top floor of the buiding so easily, bringing with them all that equipment (notably, the gas tank). Belushi apparently can leave a tape recorder near the intercom and acquire the password to the alarm station and recover it later with no effort whatever. I mean, the safecracking itself it is brilliant visually but there's no thrill whatever attached to the execution of the feat, treated like a run-of-the-mill job.   


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« #20 : August 12, 2018, 07:51:43 AM »

Also, it is left unexplained how the three safecrackers can reach the top floor of the buiding so easily, bringing with them all that equipment (notably, the gas tank). Belushi apparently can leave a tape recorder near the intercom and acquire the password to the alarm station and recover it later with no effort whatever. I mean, the safecracking itself it is brilliant visually but there's no thrill whatever attached to the execution of the feat, treated like a run-of-the-mill job.   

There ARE some questionable things with the script.  During the first heist at least one of them took his coveralls off and left them in the street.  WHO would do that? As far as the perceived dullness of the heists themselves, I have no problem with that.  Its one of the reasons I love the film.  Its not over the top like Heat. ( I love Heat by the way also).   Thief to Heist is like Carlito's Way is to Scarface.  The latter is the more known film but the former is the better film.

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« #21 : August 12, 2018, 11:57:34 AM »

There are a couple of important speeches made by other characters in the film. One comes from one of the corrupt cops after Frank takes a beating.
Quote
“You’re a stand-up guy. You’re a real stand-up guy. You got a mouth. You can take a trimmin’. You could make things easy for everybody. But no. You gotta be a goof. You’re real good. No violence. Strictly professional. I’d probably like ya. Like to go to the track, ball games, stuff like that, you know? Frank, there’s ways of doin’ things that round off the corners, make life easy for everybody.  What’s wrong with that? There’s plenty to go around. We know what you take down. We know you got somethin’ major comin’ down soon. But no, you gotta come on like a stiff prick! Who the fuck do you think you are? What’s the matter with you? You got somethin’ to say, or you waitin’ for me to ask you to dance?”

“Did it ever occur to you to try to work for a livin’? Take down your own scores?”
The sentiment is understandable, but Frank is talking to a government employee! Work for a living? Produce? It’s not in the nature of the beast.

There are no straight cops in this world. From Frank’s perspective, the police and Leo’s organization are pretty much the same. At the time the film was made, this was just a cliché of the genre. Today, though, this seems prescient, as the criminalization of everything in public life has made law-breakers out of every citizen. (The totalizers won’t be content with that, of course. Movement from Hate Speech to thoughtcrime requires only the shortest of hops.)

The cops-and-robbers system is one Leo is comfortable with. He can’t understand why Frank won’t play ball.
Quote
“You know, when you have trouble with the cops, you pay ‘em off like everybody else, because that’s the way things are done.  But not you, huh?”

“No. They don’t run me, and you don’t run me.”
 
“I give you houses. I give you a car. You’re family. I thought you’d come around. What the hell is this? What—Where is gratitude?”

“Where is my end?“

“You can’t see day for night.”

“I can see my money is still in your pocket which is from the yield of my labor. What gratitude? You’re making big profits from my work, my risk, my sweat, but that is okay because I elected to make that deal. But now the deal is over.  I want my end and I am out.”
But he is not out, and never can be. The Man, the System, the Technosphere, Leviathan—whatever the name, it demands conformity. This is the one thing Frank will not cede. As in the case of Patrick McGoohan’s Number 6, “He’s an individual, and they’re always trying.”
Leo finally feels he has to teach Frank a lesson. At the plating company, while the hoods prepare Beluchi’s body for an acid bath, Leo provides Frank with some commentary.
Quote
“Look what happened to your friend ‘cause you gotta go against the way things go down. You treat what I tried to do for you like shit. You don’t want to work for me. What’s wrong with you? . . . . You one of those burned-out, demolished wackos in the joint? You’re scary, because you don’t give a fuck. But don’t come on to me now with your jailhouse bullshit because you are not that guy. Don’t you get it, you prick? You got a home, car, businesses, family, and I own the paper on your whole fuckin’ life. I’ll put your cunt wife on the street to be fucked in the ass by niggers and Puerto Ricans. Your kid’s mine because I bought it. You got him on loan. He is leased. You are renting him. I’ll whack out your whole family. People’ll be eating ‘em for lunch tomorrow in their Wimpy burgers and not know it. You get paid what I say. You do what I say. I run you. There is no discussion. I want, you work. Until you are burned out, you are busted, or you are dead. You get it? You got responsibilities. Tighten up and do it. . . .  Back to work, Frank.”
Leo makes a mistake here. He allows Frank to counter-move instead of sitting on him hard. But Leo is fallible, he can make mistakes. And he is dealing with a man he cannot fully comprehend, a man outside his experience and beyond his imagination. Leo is used to controlling people with carrots and sticks, a technique that has worked on “shee-ple” everywhere. But Frank is an individual, and his individualism is more important to him than family, possessions, even life itself. Such persons are rare, so it’s perhaps understandable that Leo fails to recognize Frank for who he is and so deal with him effectively.

When I began rewatching the film recently I thought initially that it would make a good double-bill with a John Woo film, maybe The Killer. But by the end I’d decided if it were to be paired with anything it should be with The Fountainhead. Remember in that film Coop plays an architect who has been betrayed by others tampering with his housing concept. He decides to take back his concept by blowing up the buildings based on his design. If he cannot have his creation on his own terms no one will have it. Frank does something similar at the end of Thief: he sends his wife and child away and destroys his home and businesses. They have all been tainted by Leo, but more to the point, they give Leo leverage over Frank. The only way to deal with Leo and his organization is to first renounce everything. That Frank is successful is sheer fantasy—one man overcoming the entire system?—but Mann wanted to end the film on a note of hope. It was more important to take liberties with plausibility than undermine the film’s core Libertarian message.

« : August 12, 2018, 12:14:39 PM dave jenkins »


Ya measly skunk! A-campin’ on my trail and lettin’ me do the work an’ then shootin’ me in the back. IN THE BACK!
dave jenkins
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« #22 : August 12, 2018, 11:59:15 AM »

I mean, the safecracking itself it is brilliant visually but there's no thrill whatever attached to the execution of the feat, treated like a run-of-the-mill job.   
The film's strongest point.



Ya measly skunk! A-campin’ on my trail and lettin’ me do the work an’ then shootin’ me in the back. IN THE BACK!
titoli
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« #23 : August 12, 2018, 09:32:45 PM »

As far as the perceived dullness of the heists themselves, I have no problem with that.

I wouldn't have either were it not that the mechanics of the heist are goofy. You are dealing with professionals: but who needs them? You have all that scene on the top of the building without any explanation as to how they have reached it with gas tank, and the rest of the equipment: apparently there's no vigilance whatever: worse than Watergate building. Secondly, they go into the safe room and apart from vigilance, no camera, just a password easily (and incredibly) stolen and all that jazz with the wires in the top floor. I mean: in Rififi at least you had a use for an umbrella, they had to be silent and careful. Here you wonder where the catch may be and when it will come up: it never does. You can do without the suspense? OK. But the problem is verisimilitude.   


dave jenkins
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« #24 : August 14, 2018, 12:12:47 AM »

Who goes to Michael Mann for verisimilitude?



Ya measly skunk! A-campin’ on my trail and lettin’ me do the work an’ then shootin’ me in the back. IN THE BACK!
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« #25 : December 03, 2018, 03:15:53 PM »

There are a couple of important speeches made by other characters in the film. One comes from one of the corrupt cops after Frank takes a beating.The sentiment is understandable, but Frank is talking to a government employee! Work for a living? Produce? It’s not in the nature of the beast.

There are no straight cops in this world. From Frank’s perspective, the police and Leo’s organization are pretty much the same. At the time the film was made, this was just a cliché of the genre. Today, though, this seems prescient, as the criminalization of everything in public life has made law-breakers out of every citizen. (The totalizers won’t be content with that, of course. Movement from Hate Speech to thoughtcrime requires only the shortest of hops.)

The cops-and-robbers system is one Leo is comfortable with. He can’t understand why Frank won’t play ball.But he is not out, and never can be. The Man, the System, the Technosphere, Leviathan—whatever the name, it demands conformity. This is the one thing Frank will not cede. As in the case of Patrick McGoohan’s Number 6, “He’s an individual, and they’re always trying.”
Leo finally feels he has to teach Frank a lesson. At the plating company, while the hoods prepare Beluchi’s body for an acid bath, Leo provides Frank with some commentary.Leo makes a mistake here. He allows Frank to counter-move instead of sitting on him hard. But Leo is fallible, he can make mistakes. And he is dealing with a man he cannot fully comprehend, a man outside his experience and beyond his imagination. Leo is used to controlling people with carrots and sticks, a technique that has worked on “shee-ple” everywhere. But Frank is an individual, and his individualism is more important to him than family, possessions, even life itself. Such persons are rare, so it’s perhaps understandable that Leo fails to recognize Frank for who he is and so deal with him effectively.

When I began rewatching the film recently I thought initially that it would make a good double-bill with a John Woo film, maybe The Killer. But by the end I’d decided if it were to be paired with anything it should be with The Fountainhead. Remember in that film Coop plays an architect who has been betrayed by others tampering with his housing concept. He decides to take back his concept by blowing up the buildings based on his design. If he cannot have his creation on his own terms no one will have it. Frank does something similar at the end of Thief: he sends his wife and child away and destroys his home and businesses. They have all been tainted by Leo, but more to the point, they give Leo leverage over Frank. The only way to deal with Leo and his organization is to first renounce everything. That Frank is successful is sheer fantasy—one man overcoming the entire system?—but Mann wanted to end the film on a note of hope. It was more important to take liberties with plausibility than undermine the film’s core Libertarian message.
This is an excellent write up. I re-watched this recently and I agree with this 100%.



Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre..
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