Blindspotting: Thief

End of February was a crazy time so this was a little bit late.

My original draft for this was only about Thief but I hit something near the end that I had to scrap it and start again so this will be more of a comparison because while I did get to see Thief on the big screen I also got to see more Mann and seeing Thief and Heat so close together made it clear that they have to be talked about together.

The pivotal scene in Heat about half way through it when Hanna stops McCauley and asks him to have a coffee is when McCauley expounds on the reason he will succeed in the end.

“A man told me once: you want to make moves? Don’t keep anything in your life you’re not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”

What I didn’t realize is the man who told him that could easily be James Caan’s Frank from Thief.

Both men share a bunch of traits, they are professionals who are the best at what they do because they are focused and plan all the pieces out well in advance, they are both direct and forceful and kind of brutes outside of when they are ‘working’, as if all their skills are poured into what they work at leaving nothing left for any other parts of life. Both share dreams and goals of leaving their lives of crime and resting in a destination or in a state of life that is content for them.

Both Thief and Heat are beautiful stark depictions of their types of crimes, Thief going from the more subdued heists when no one is home:

and Heat going for the bigger payouts and bigger risks.

Where the movies shift greatly is when that way of life that glance at ‘freedom’ are threatened.

Frank gets in too deep with the criminal element setting him up with jobs, loses his best friend and his family is threatened.

McCauley on the other hand is unaware of the level of police surveillance on him and his crew before he plans that one final job.

What Frank does next is apply the 30 seconds rule:

Scorch the earth, he burns down every place he has been seen to frequent since settling in the city, without a question or thought about anyone else involved in those places. He sends his family away to a place he can not know and pulls out a gun and goes to finish things.

At the end of the day in both movies the true face of evil in both is dispatched by the angry professional working alone.

The difference is that Frank put everything away before seeking revenge McCauley became emotional and wasn’t cold enough to drop everything and go or even drop revenge and just go, he could not follow his own advice.

Neither man is going back to prison but the one who was colder, harder and more cynical was at the end of the day the one who was able to walk away, albeit a bit bloody. Commitment to the job above everything else is what brings success in the world of Thief and a breaking of ones code is what leads to ruin in Heat. But is that really success in terms of the film Thief?

There is something to that story in America isn’t there of the self made man forging his own path through his skills and his own two hands to secure safety wealth and a family. Most of those stories that Hollywood wants to tell end up a bloody mess because the world does not forget past violence. Idealistic dreams from less than idealistic characters is not a well balanced equation. Everything always has a way with catching up to you and in that sense the advice of “A man told me once: you want to make moves? Don’t keep anything in your life you’re not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” works because it disengages you from those connections and attachments that can transmit violence back towards you.

Frank walks away at the end of Thief but does he ever find what he wants out of life or is that suburban happiness he craves forever out of line with the profession he partakes in and the people he is forced to cross paths with because of it. What he wants would be so simple to obtain if only he was who he is and so good at what he does. In that way both men fail to find what they are looking for when on the surface it looks like one has gotten away, what he has gotten is another try at applying his skills to the real world and inevitably those will clash.

Vincent: And if you spot me around the corner. You gonna walk out on her? Leave her flat? Like that? Not even say goodbye?

Neil: That’s the discipline.

Vincent: What you’re left with is pretty empty.

Neil: Yeah?

Then maybe you and me, we should both go do somethin’ else, pal.

Vincent: I don’t know how to do anything else.

Neil: Neither do I.

Vincent: And I don’t much want to.

Neil: Neither do I.”

Hopefully March will be on time.

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