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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring Mann and actor James Caan
  • New interviews with Mann, Caan, and Johannes Schmoelling of the band Tangerine Dream, which contributed the film's soundtrack
  • Trailer

Thief

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Michael Mann
Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky, James Belushi, Tom Signorelli, Willie Nelson, Dennis Farina, Nick Nickeas
1981 | 124 Minutes | Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #691
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: January 14, 2014
Review Date: January 20, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

The revered American auteur Michael Mann burst out of the gate with his bold artistic sensibility fully formed with Thief, his first theatrical feature. James Caan stars, in one of his most riveting performances, as a no-nonsense ex-con safecracker planning to leave the criminal world behind after one final diamond heist, but discovering that escape is not as simple as he hoped. Finding hypnotic beauty in neon and rain-slick streets, sparks and steel, Thief effortlessly established the moody stylishness and tactile approach to action that would define such later iconic entertainments from Mann as Miami Vice, Manhunter, and Heat.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The latest directorís cut of Michael Mannís debut feature film, Thief, receives the Criterion treatment on Blu-ray and DVD in this new dual-format edition. The new high-def restoration, taken from a 4k transfer, delivers the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The dual-layer Blu-ray delivers the film in 1080p/24hz while the dual-layer DVD delivers a standard definition version of the same transfer in widescreen and enhanced for widescreen televisions.

I donít have the MGM DVD to directly compare with, though saw it many years ago. If I recall correctly (and looking stuff up online seems to confirm this) the DVD was non-anamorphic, so already this release delivers an obvious upgrade. Other than that and some odd effects at the end (which I originally contributed to a poor transfer though later discovered it was Mannís awkward attempt to speed up some slo-mo shots) I unfortunately donít recall anything else about that disc and its transfer.

Despite the fact I canít comment directly on how each edition compares I still feel itís safe to say the film has never looked as good on home video as it does here on the Blu-ray version. Other than the occasional soft shot in a handful of low-lit sequences (with the softness looking to be inherent in the source) the image is intensely sharp throughout. Edges are crisp, smaller details are delivered with an extreme amount of clarity, and depth is superb. There are a number of low lit sequences as alluded to before, and other than a couple of softer looking shots theyíre also delivered well. Black levels are strong, delivering superb shadow delineation and no issues of crushing. Colours pop, especially blues. The print has also been beautifully restored and I donít recall any significant blemishes. It should also be noted that those weird speed-up effects that were present in the MGM DVDís presentation have been removed.

The DVD version does use the same transfer as its base, though itís unfortunately nowhere near as good. The DVDís standard-definition presentation is obviously compressed and colours donít come off as well: the blues, which are so clean and vivid in the Blu-ray, come off a little duller here. There are also some issues with crushing in darker scenes. If I had just seen the DVD transfer on its own without the Blu-ray as a reference I probably would have still been pleased with it, but the differences between the two in this edition are obvious and fairly substantial.

Still, we get one hell of a presentation. With no digital anomalies to speak of and a very film-like look, Thief delivers a fantastic transfer.

10/10

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AUDIO

The film receives a 5.1 surround track, presented in DTS-HD MA on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital on the DVD. I found dialogue a little muffled and I had to crank the volume a bit, but every other aspect of the soundtrack is fine. Tangerine Dreamís electronic score builds nicely and naturally as it moves through the speakers to the surrounds. The music is clear, with excellent fidelity and bass, as are the filmís sound effects, which naturally move through the environment when necessary, with the best moment being the filmís final heist sequence or a couple of explosions that occur.

Itís never overly aggressive but its effective and suits the filmís nature.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This release is disappointingly slim with the biggest supplement, an audio commentary featuring director Michael Mann and James Caan, being a recycled one from the MGM DVD and LaserDisc editions. Itís an disappointingly dry track with more dead space as it progresses. There is some interesting material to be found, with comments about consultants that worked with them, the time period, and a lot of discussion about how the characters talk. Thereís some other interesting bits of information and anecdotes (like John Belushi hanging around the set and corruption in Chicago) but itís not the engaging track I would have hoped for.

Iím guessing thatís part of the reason why Criterion has added two new interviews featuring the director and star. The first, featuring Michael Mann being interviewed by film critic Scott Foundas, amazingly, despite the fact it only runs 24-minutes, feels to be packed with more information than the commentary. Here Mann talks about the genre of the film, his attraction to these types of stories, the filmís imagery and how he built up his sense of visuals over the years. He talks about the Tangerine Dream score and goes into details about the characters and casting. Certainly far more engaging than the commentary track and Iíd recommend this interview over it.

Iíd also go with the James Caan interview over the commentary. It only runs 11-minutes but manages to feel more satisfying. Caan repeats quite a bit from the commentary, with a special concentration on how he had his character speak (specifically no contractions) and goes into more detail about his ďtrainingĒ in using a gun and cracking safes (Caan even jokes he was able to break into his sisterís safe when she was unable to open it.) Short but fun.

Criterion then includes a somewhat dry 16-minute interview with former Tangerine Dream member Johannes Schmoellin. After giving a brief history of the group he talks about the bandís first film score and trying to meet Mannís needs. The disc then closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer. The booklet then features an essay by Nick James.

Itís a surprisingly slim release, and lacks much in the way of critical analysis, Jamesí essay coming the closest. Still, the interviews are worthwhile.

6/10

CLOSING

Not a loaded special edition in terms of supplements, simply adding some interviews and recycling a ho-hum audio commentary, but the new transfer makes this release well worth picking up.


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