Though I disagree with Dave Kehr’s 1981 assessment of Thief (reprinted in this week’s Reader), I found it instructive when revisiting the film at the Music Box on Saturday. “[Michael] Mann’s observations are trite, derivative, and frequently sentimental,” wrote Kehr in his capsule review, adding that “the visual style is strictly small screen.” I can understand how he came to these conclusions when the movie first came out. At the time, Mann had only worked in television, and few audiences were likely aware of his appreciation of filmmakers like Alain Resnais and Michelangelo Antonioni (though it’s worth noting that the climax of Thief references Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point!) Did anyone predict in 1981 that Thief’s “head-bonking close-ups” (Kehr again) would evolve, in films like The Insider and Collateral, into one of the most richly textured styles in contemporary movies? Or that Mann’s apparently shallow psychologizing may have been something else entirely, an ambivalent, even Antonioniesque look at how professional routine can streamline identity?