Michael Mann is fascinated by obsessives who work on opposite sides of the law. In fact, when you go over his filmography, it’s filled with them: loners who are hardened by choice and keep others at a constant arm’s-length, indulging in their skills instead. Starting in 1981, Mann made his first feature, Thief, about a professional safe-cracker who finds his way under the thumb of the mob. Frank (James Caan) wants what everyone else has, but can’t have it because his profession effectively keeps him on the outskirts of society.
Mann’s works always tend to lend a sympathetic eye to those perceived as criminals. Sure they break the law, yet they possess a strong value system and always abide by their respective codes. These men don’t waver, circumstances merely fail them and they adapt. It’s what makes them consummate professionals. Sure there is a thrill in watching these protagonists hone their craft, but there is more compulsion than pleasure in these acts.
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