Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cat's Away: Brief Thief

Night # 7 of Cat's Away. I've been at this for a week!

On Monday night, I needed a night of rest and recuperation.

A 123-minute Michael Mann film was probably not the way to do that. Nonetheless, I watched Thief.

But because all this watching and all this writing has left me feeling like a candle burned at both ends, I will be brief on Thief.

My exposure to Thief was in the context of it being considered that hidden gem in Michael Mann's career, for those who were mostly familiar with things like Heat and The Insider. It was that gem for those who had dug back to his other older hidden gem, Manhunter, and felt they hadn't dug back far enough. And as I started watching, there was every reason to believe that hidden gem status would be fulfilled. Being greeted right away by a Tangerine Dream score was a good thing. A very good thing.

But the sum total of good things and very good things was not what I'd hoped for in Thief. It has that ambling, rambling, shambling quality of other 70s-era gritty crime dramas that have left me kind of unsatisfied, even if this is a full two years into the 1980s. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, for example, or another James Caan film I saw from that time, Hide in Plain Sight.

It was one of those films where I felt like I had spaced out for a key line of dialogue here and there. For example, in what I thought was possibly the scene where Caan's and Tuesday Weld's character first met, suddenly later in the scene he's talking about spending his life with her, and a few scenes later they are at an adoption agency trying to adopt a baby. It seemed incongruous enough that for a moment I wasn't sure if he was casing the adoption agency to try to rob it. The film was filled with those little missed connections in my brain that left me consulting the plot synopsis on Wikipedia afterward.

I'd say I appreciated Thief enough to give it a positive rating. It was interesting from a film education perspective to go back and see Mann's first feature, which established themes and considerations he would continue to explore throughout his work. But Mann is a filmmaker who has as many failures as successes to his name, at least for me, and this is probably a bit closer to the former than it is the latter.

I was interested to see that Willie Nelson is in this movie, and that even back in 1981 he was considered old, when he was only 48 (which is just five years older than I am now). There's a line of dialogue where someone says "Who's that old man?" It seems that what was once said of Wilford Brimley applies also to Nelson: Was he ever young?

Okay, back on the horse tomorrow with an expected double feature ... and hopefully a bit more stamina.

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