1981s Thief is Michael Mann's directorial debut. He also served as the screenwriter and producer. The film was based on the book The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by Frank Hohimer aka real-life jewel thief John Seybold.
The stylishly filmed story follows James Caan as the title thief. He operates a very lucrative, high end burglar operation (with Jim Belushi as his assistant and Willie Nelson as his incarcerated mentor) that includes a used car dealership and a bar as fronts for his activities. After his middleman to the fence is killed while returning from the meeting with his sizable portion of the proceeds, his life is turned upside down in a series of trying and troubling encounters with the heavy hitters who have been fencing his stolen goods, unbeknownst to him, for years.
Curious to note that Thief was the film debut for actors James Belushi, William Petersen, Dennis Farina, John Kapelos, as well as Robert Prosky.