Cinematic Style

A Criminally Underappreciated Classic Get Its Due

Have you seen Michael Mann's first film? The new Criterion Collection release of 'Thief', starring James Caan, is your chance go correct that.

Forget the gun, check out that watch.

Quick: Name a highly-influential, early-’80s flick that concerns an impossibly well-dressed gent who makes his living on the wrong side of the law. American Gigolo, right? Well, yes. The movie that made Richard Gere a star — and introduced America to Giorgio Armani — was a watershed moment in men’s style. But 1981’s Thief, with James Caan in the titular role and Michael Mann in the director’s chair, is every bit as stylish — and it’s a far better film. I’d call Thief criminally underrated, but being underrated implies being seenThief is more like criminally unknown. A new DVD edition, out today from Criterion Collection, offers a fine opportunity to fix that.

As conflicted, safe-cracking jewel thief who’s looking to go straight — once he pulls of that last big score — Jimmy Caan is Sonny Corleone set to slow burn (except when he’s shredding the scenery with lines like “I wear $150 slacks! I wear silk shirts! I wear $800 suits! I wear a gold watch! I wear a perfect, D flawless, three-carat ring! I’m a thief!“). Meanwhile, Michael Mann’s moody direction and taut pacing, underpinned by a propulsive soundtrack from Mann favorites Tangerine Dream, hint at what he’d later do with his next (and equally underrated!) flick, Manhunter, not to mention Miami Vice. Watch the trailer below for more. And — in case you find yourself inspired to go shopping for clothes rather than DVDs — here’s a link to the Gilt Tailored Shop. After all, Don Johnson in a T-shirt and white linen Versace jacket is cool, but the trim-cut three-piece numbers Jimmy Caan rocks in Thief are actually something you might wear to the office.

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