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I suspect Thief would like to take its place alongside the classic "White Heat." It won't, for several reasons. First, James Caan is no James Cagney. Second, the livid language and vicious violence of the '80s pack lessm punch than the subtler shades that were used in movies of the '40s. Third, the message of "Thief" -- that crime is just another business, though nasty and destructive -- has less urgency than the family dynamics of "White Heat." Still, Caan is no slouch, even if he does talk like Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls." And director Michael Mann deserves credit for bringing his own heated intensity to this carefully constructed tale of self-defeating crime and passion.

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