The Loner (1981)

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German title The loner
Original title Thief
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1981
length Director's Cut:
124 ( NTSC ) minutes
119 ( PAL ) minutes
Cinema version:
122 (NTSC) minutes
117 (PAL) minutes
Age rating FSK 18 (uncut Director's Cut), 16 (cut)
Director Michael Mann
script Michael Mann
production Jerry Bruckheimer
Ronnie Caan
Michael Mann
music Tangerine Dream
Craig Safan
camera Donald E. Thorin
cut Dov Hoenig

The heist movie The loner (original title: Thief ) is an American thriller by Michael Mann from 1981 about love , greed , crime , betrayal and revenge . The film is a production by Mann / Caan Productions distributed by United Artists and was released in US cinemas on March 27, 1981. The film, based on a story by Frank Hohimer , also bears the English title Violent Streets . Stylistically, the film is classified as neo-noir , a modern variant of the classic film noir .


Frank, who was imprisoned for many years, is a professional safe hacker and specializes in robbing the banks of their money and stealing diamonds with his friend Barry. His dream is to one day lead a normal life and start a family. He just has to get some money to make this dream come true. He meets the girl Jessie and falls in love with her. At first he has a hard time making it clear to her that a gangster is really serious about her and wants to spend his life with her.

After his last fishing trip, all the stolen property was stolen by a gangster family in a failed delivery and now Frank has to try to get his hard-earned money back. It's not that easy because the cops are after him too, just waiting for him to make a mistake. When Frank is handed over his money, he makes a deal with Leo, the leader of the gangsters. He wants to help Frank get better jobs with more yield and collect a share for it. Frank accepts the offer and, without knowing it, sells his soul to the devil. Leo as a fatherly friend even helps Frank and Jessie to have a baby from the black market and now thinks they have Frank under control.

Leo, Frank and Barry plan the next big coup and can pull it off successfully and escape the police.

When Frank wants to pick up his share from Leo at home to be able to retire, only a small part of the proceeds are paid out and Frank wants to force Frank to make further larger deals. But Frank just wants his money and get out of it. He threatens Leo and gives him an ultimatum to hand over the money. At the meeting there is a shooting that kills Frank's friend Barry and gets Frank into the clutches of Leo. Leo violently pressures Frank to continue working for him "until he is back in jail or dead".

From this point on, Frank decides to give up his family. He's sending them away to be on the safe side so he can get revenge and wipe out the gangster family before they can do it to him. He burns and blows up all of his possessions and eventually goes to Leo's house.

A tough battle ensues in which he finally kills Leo and his gang. Frank is hit by a bullet and falls to the ground. But since he was wearing a bulletproof vest, he can pull himself up again and disappears into the night unseen.


Michael Mann brought the professional thief John Santucci and the two former police officers Dennis Farina and Chuck Adamson into production as consultants for his directorial debut . All three were each given a supporting role. The tasks of Santucci and Farina were swapped, the cop played a gangster and the gangster a cop.

The shooting began in March 1980 and found in Chicago , Illinois , United States instead.

Johannes Schmoelling from the band Tangerine Dream explained in 2001 about the collaboration: “Michael Mann used our music in 'Thief', for example. B. used incredibly loud, so that some critics have even declared him crazy. But that was exactly his intention. The very monotonous sequencing , which sometimes annoyed me at our concerts, works perfectly here [...] In 'Thief' he simply wanted the music to sound mechanical, cold and desolate and thus correspond to the essence of the main character. "

Mann's next projects were also unsuccessful until he finally expanded the material of the film into a crime series that became known around the world as Miami Vice .


The film got some good reviews, but it didn't go over the top with audiences. It wasn't a huge hit at the box office and director Michael Mann had to continue his career with low budget films.

“One of the most intelligent thrillers I've seen. […] It's a thriller with plausible people in it. How rare ”

“One of the smartest thrillers I know. [...] A thriller with plausible people in it. How rare. "

"Hard to imagine the film made any other way once you've seen the entire thing"

"It's hard to imagine that the film could have been realized differently, once you know it."

- Walter Frith :

"While the FAZ classified Mann's film as 'aesthetically worth seeing', Die Zeit said : ' The loner looks like a parody of film noir , but an involuntary one'."

- Jens Golombek : The great film lexicon. All top films from A – Z

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Marcus Stiglegger: Border contacts. Excursions beyond film history. 1st edition. Martin Schmitz, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-927795-73-0 , pp. 79-92 .
  2. Johannes Schmoelling Interview November 7, 2001. In:, November 7, 2001, accessed on November 1, 2008 .
  3. Roger Ebert : Thief (R). In: January 1, 1981, accessed October 31, 2008 .
  4. ^ Walter Frith: Thief (1981). In:, Inc., accessed October 31, 2008 .
  5. Jens Golombek (jg) in: Dirk Manthey, Jörg Altendorf, Willy Loderhose (Hrsg.): Das große Film-Lexikon. All top films from A-Z . Second edition, revised and expanded new edition. Verlagsgruppe Milchstraße, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-89324-126-4 , p. 749 .