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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
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Thief Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Criterion
Jan 21 2014 02:50 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Criterion
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 2 Hrs. 4 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD
- Case Type: keep case
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 01/14/2014
- MSRP: $39.95
The Production Rating: 4/5Career criminal Frank (James Caan) is living a comfortable life in Chicago; he has a couple of legitimate businesses that mask his evening activities as a burglar deluxe specializing only in thefts involving uncut diamonds or cash. He also has a utopian life planned for himself by making someday enough money to offer the woman of his dreams Jessie (Tuesday Weld) a life without monetary care, a beautiful home, a child, and his old prison mentor Okla (Willie Nelson) a place to hang his hat for the rest of his days. Crime boss Leo (Robert Prosky) offers Frank just what he wants: he manages to get Okla released early, he arranges for the couple to adopt a child on the black market, and he sets up high paying scores for Frank and his crew (James Belushi, Bill Brown). But Frank has always relished being an independent contractor, and when he later learns that his arrangement with Leo comes with strings attached, his idyllic dreams of living the good life begin to crumble.
Michael Mann both directed the film and wrote the screenplay taking next to nothing from the book credited in the main titles The Home Invaders by Frank Hohimer (in fact, at one point, Frank specifically proclaims he doesn’t do home invasions). This is an intense look at one tough cookie: a criminal who isn’t afraid of a crime boss or the police because he has no fear of death. Interestingly, as the film runs and Frank begins to enjoy the time with Jessie and their child David, we see some cracks begin to develop in his armor: he has something to live for now and someone to fight for other than himself. It’s a turning point in the film when he comes to this realization, and it leads the film into its violent, cathartic denouement. In his first theatrical film, Mann often lets scenes run on too long: the initial robbery lasts almost ten minutes before we get to know any of the characters, and we watch an endless burglary of a safe late in the film, and while the visuals are rather dazzling, the torch slowly cutting through the steel safe does tend to drag out the movie’s running time unnecessarily. Mann’s script is also brazenly satiric of the local political machine in Chicago: from cops to judges, everyone seems to be on the take as almost a God-given right. Mann certainly doesn’t flinch from the beatings and shootings that punctuate the narrative, and he films them in an interesting variety of angles and distances.
James Caan gives one of his best performances as the title character. He seems a plausible hooligan through all of the film, but a scene of outrage at the adoption office seems for the first time to reveal his deep sense of heart and hurt as well as his familiar tough guy persona. His two scenes with the very effective Willie Nelson also betray a man who has a lot of love to give to those who he feels are worthy of it. Tuesday Weld’s character isn’t as well written, a woman who melts too easily into the thief’s eager arms and then tries to use reason with him at the end of the film when things have fallen apart. It’s not the actress’ fault clearly; the writer-director simply didn’t have as clear a handle on her character as he did on the character of the leading man. In his first film role, Robert Prosky as the evil, manipulative Leo is superb melding a grandfatherly beneficence with cold-hearted indifference at the proper moments. James Belushi is mostly silent as Frank’s main assistant, but John Santucci as a cop who almost reeks of malfeasance makes a striking impression.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. At its best, the sharpness level reveals many details in hair and facial features, but occasional shots aren’t as razor-edged as others. Color is nicely balanced, and skin tones are entirely natural. Black levels are sometimes erratic, too, often inky but sometimes a little on the gray side though shadow detail in just fine. There are some spotty moiré patterns that turn up in grille work. The film has been divided into 31 chapters.
Audio Rating: 4/5The original stereo masters have been remixed into a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Even using modern audio sensibilities, the film’s two channel origins are fairly obvious with the sound effects spread mostly across the front with only occasional use of the rears. Tangerine Dream’s heavy, sometimes imposing and other times oppressive electronic score does get a nice spread through the entire soundstage. Dialogue has also been well recorded and resides in the center channel.
Special Features: 3.5/5Audio Commentary: director Michael Mann and star James Caan sit together and comment and chuckle their way through the film in an average audio commentary track.
Michael Mann Interview (24:18, HD): Variety’s Scott Foundas interviews the director in 2013 about his earlier TV work and his memories of working on Thief.
James Caan Interview (10:39, HD): the star of the film remembers preprarations for the film and relationships with various members of the cast and crew.
Johannes Schmoelling Interview (15:40, HD): the former member of Tangerine Dream recalls being asked to do the score and what it was like working with Michael Mann.
Theatrical Trailer (1:53, HD)
Twenty-Two Page Booklet: contains the chapter listing, the cast and crew lists, some color stills, and journalist Nick James’ essay on the movie.
Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
DVD: included in the case with these dual-format releases.
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