Welcome to Drive before Drive. Mann’s debut feature is highly-stylized, highly-researched, and offers James Caan in his favorite and best role. There’s nothing new about Thief (at least not by today’s standards) but there is something very real about Thief. Mann’s research really shines through, Sure, he still over-imposes his own will on the film, dragging a couple of scenes out for too long, but move past that and soak in the neon-noir.
Perhaps more impressive is the film as a debut feature for cinematographer Donald Thorin. Again, if you liked Refn’s Drive, he re-creates scenes here shot-for-shot (same shooting location, as well). Thorin would go on to photograph other beautiful 80s films, but fell off in the 90s (even filming Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), so maybe don’t credit Thorin but again Mann, for knowing exactly the kind of film he wanted to make, for better or worse.