It seems like once in every Michael Mann film, there’s a sit-down at a table. Almost every one of these sit-downs is about two people sizing each-other up. Usually these scenes find two adversaries meeting, but occasionally Mister Mann throws us a curve.
That’s exactly what we get in THIEF.
At the end of the first act, we do indeed get a scene where two people try to size each-other up…but it’s not two adversaries whipping them out and discussing whose is bigger. No, in this story we have a crook trying to get the attention of a beautiful woman, and that woman trying to decide if he’s worth wasting even a morsel of her time and affection.
What I love about this spin on the “Michael Mann Sit-Down” is that it springs off the games being played on the typical first date. There’s the chests being puffed-out, the incredulous glances when the discussion goes awry, even the discomfort of the original plan being all but abandoned. In this moment, this is a first date gone brutally wrong, and we’re seeing one person trying to cut the crap…and the other trying to make a decision on the spot.
Like Pacino and DeNiro in HEAT, or Cruise and Foxx in COLLATERAL, they are on opposite sides of a game board, but as we can see in their body language, this game is tied heading into the final frame.
On the left, Jessie can’t believe what she’s hearing. Her date kept her waiting in her nice hairdo and fancy coat while he tended to business after hours. She’s seen this attitude before and seems ready to call “bullshit” at any moment. Yet here she is leaning forward…soaking up her date’s truthbombs and ready to brace for another blast. She doesn’t want to jump through any hoops, but all the same, she’s curious about the hoop her date is holding aloft.
On the right, Frank could care less. He’s just unloaded more secrets about himself to a virtual stranger than he usually tells those closest to him. He’s just finished his Popeye “I Yam What I Yam” declaration, and doesn’t feel the least bit ashamed or humbled by any of it. He’s cocksure – unconcerned that her dress and fur are clashing with his jeans and leather jacket. And yet, even though he can tell she’s less than impressed, he’s still there. He wants her, and more importantly, wants her to “get it”. He won’t lose sleep if she walks, but a part of him will feel like he missed an opportunity.
He’s just not about to tell her that.
So they sit…staring each other down, squaring off, enduring this sit-down and deciding on their next move. These moments are usually reserved for competing adversaries, but there’s something about the curious chemistry of men & women on first dates that brings out this curious chemistry as well.
Here’s three more from THIEF for the road…
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far