I think Mike Mann realised this too, and gave him Thief - an excellent film with Caan playing the part of a diamond thief wanting out of a world of crime and into a world of families, daily chores & appreciating those that are close to you.
So he accepts one more job from the local Mr Big, Leo (Bob Prosky, of Hill Street Blues fame). Leo is so influential he can offer Caan anything even a baby for Jessie(Tuesday Weld) and himself.
The score goes down and Caan thinks he's free, but Leo wants more.....
A richly stylish film set on the streets of Chicago, married superbly by a sparkling, industrial rock music score by German band, Tangerine Dream.
Caan is ably supported by a rather underplayed but decent performance from his pal, James Belushi. And the moving cameo from Willie Nelson is an added bonus, a nice touch from Mann who shows us the other side of Caan's hardnosed & grim character.
"Thief" is a 1981 American neo-noir crime film written, produced and directed by Michael Mann in his feature film debut. It is based on the 1975 novel "The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar" by Frank Hohime. The movie received widespread critical acclaim. Roger Ebert described Thief as "one of the most intelligent thrillers I've seen" and gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, writing that the film's only major flaw was a failure to develop the subplot featuring Willie Nelson's character more fully: "Willie has played the character so well that we wanted more."
Michael Mann´s feature debut film has been on my to see list for ages and ages. This stylised and slick heist thriller is a bit slowpaced and didn´t make a massive impact on me as I hoped. Yet, all the classic Mann trademarks (neon, wet pavements etc) are there and there´s something intriguing about Frank´s attempt to break free from his criminal past and present. "Thief" has a strong character development and I do like that Mann takes time for that. And I also like Mann´s excellent attention to details with for example the burglary tools. James Caan is truly great as Frank (tough guy with his heart on his sleeve) and the role is perfect for his charisma and style of acting. Loved Tangerine Dreams musical score. "Thief" is the beginning of something great that Mann later perfected with "Miami Vice" and films like the brilliant "Manhunter".
Trivia: The burglary tools used throughout the film (such as the hydraulic drill used in the opening sequence) were not props, but real tools which the actors were trained to use. The tools were supplied by real-life thieves who served as technical consultants on the film, principally John Santucci, who also portrayed Sergeant Urizzi on-screen.
A sixty thousand gallon water truck was used to keep the streets constantly wet.
Many real-life Chicago criminals and police officers served as advisors to director Michael Mann, and Mann cast many of them on-screen, often in contradictory roles (former Chicago police officers Dennis Farina and Nick Nickeas appear as criminal henchmen, while former professional thief John Santucci appears as a police officer).
Michael Mann's impressive debut 'Thief' just oozes coolness. From the opening scene, we immediately get a sense of what kind of a filmmaker Mann is going to be for the next 30 years plus. The film has got some typically great dialogue exchanges and many memorable moments sprinkled throughout what is a slightly overlong running time. The story itself is nothing that jumps out at you but, much like 'Drive' - of which this film has been compared to numerous times - it's more about the execution than the concept. James Caan is also really great here, as a man constantly on edge from a life of crime, who feels like he could just snap at any second. What with this and 'To Live and Die in L.A.', I feel like I'm seeing a lot of highly influential, yet relatively low concept films. Both have fantastic visual and auditory aesthetics, that just perfectly capture the 1980s, and both have influenced modern culture more than we care to admit. Not just films, but music and video games - this especially could have been a film adaptation of a GTA game some of the time - the music, aesthetic and plot are practically designed for it. Both of these movies are far more about mood and atmosphere than they are about story - but just because they're not some kind of deep, thoughtful character study or a meditation on the meaning of life, doesn't mean they are any less impressive. In many ways, I actually think they're more impressive, for the mark of a truly great film is one that manages to leave you with a distinct, unique feeling afterwards.
Knockout thriller about professional safe-cracker, on the verge of living a normal life, agrees to one final job. Superlative, intelligent character study (masterfully acted by James Caan) and drama, leads to a spellbinding finale. Fascinating synthesizer score by Tangerine Dream.
Como era habitual en el Mann de la época, la fotografía de la cinta es excelente, y la banda sonora de la mano de Tangerine Dream es incluso mejor. No entiendo como no es más recordada.
El reparto esta pletórico (aunque no entiendo mucho la elección de Willie Nelson...), y eso que Caan es un actor que me cuesta cuando lo veo en versión original.
I was thrilled at how well this movie holds up. Tense, neo-noir... and the diner scene - which Caan himself has said is his best work - may be nine of the most 'real' minutes ever put on film.
The bulk of the film is classic late 70's, so expect dialog and character driven scenes. The climax of the film is pure 80's. Stunning violence and action.
This is also a tragedy, do don't expect a classic, Hollywood happy ending. This is a movie about people you can almost believe are real.