In 1984 the producing team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were hitting it big. They ended up scoring the biggest hit of the year with Beverly Hills Cop. The year before they had a major success with Flashdance, and now Top Gun was on the horizon. However, they did have one other film released in 84 that has not gone down as a classic – the often forgotten thrilled Thief of Hearts.
Our story concerns a skilled burglar named Scott Muller (Steven Bauer). He has teamed up with his pal Buddy (David Caruso) to pull off some robberies. See, Buddy works as a valet at a fancy restaurant. He zeroes in on wealthy regulars at the restaurant. So when they make a reservation for dinner, Scott is dispatched to break in to their homes as they dine. Seems like it wouldn’t be too hard for the cops to catch on to this little scam…but ok. On this particular night the targets are children’s book author Ray Davis (John Getz…who also played a character named Ray in 84’s Blood Simple) and his interior designer wife Mickey (Barbara Williams).
Scott ends up getting away with some valuable paintings but also swipes a box that looks as if it would have something valuable in it. Turns out it holds Mickey’s steamy diaries. They are filled with her many fantasies, the result of a pretty blah marriage with Ray. At first she is dismayed that they were stolen, but eventually she becomes all hot and bothered imagining someone else reading them. Turns out that Scott is, in fact, reading them and getting somewhat worked up himself. Having also stolen a large portrait of the beautiful author he becomes quite obsessed with her.
Scott then decides to pursue Mickey. Armed with the info from the diaries he knows where to find her, her likes and dislikes, and other intimate details. He poses as the owner of a school supplies company looking to hire a decorator for his apartment. Of course, she takes the job and soon she’s doing more in his bedroom than just decorating it. Ray soon starts to become suspicious, though, and, along with his buddy Marty (George Wendt), follows Scott and learns the truth. Meanwhile, Buddy causes more trouble when he ends up killing a cop during another robbery with Scott. With the heat now on he needs to get out of town, but can he get Mickey to come with him?
Probably the strongest element of Thief of Hearts is affair aspect of the story. Even though Steven Bauer’s performance is somewhat lacking in charisma, Barbara Williams is solid. She does a steamy job of raising the sexual tension of the whole thing. Her internal struggle between having an affair or sticking with the man she loves, who ignores her, is believable.
However, the film falls short in many ways. The biggest problem is that there is no real sense of danger when it comes to Steven Bauer’s character. I guess he’s supposed to be the dreamy crook with a heart of gold, but he’s about as dangerous as Barney the Purple Dinosaur. There are certainly missed opportunities that could’ve given the character more of an edge. For example, Mickey has a business partner played by former SNL cast member Christine Ebersole. She could’ve tried to caution Mickey about the affair, get in the way of things…that might lead to her death at the hands of the bad guys. Nope. She’s all “hey, he’s cute…go for it.” Boring!!! There’s just no sinister element at play. The closest we get is when Caruso kills the cop but that really has no bearing on the affair.
On a whole, Thief of Hearts is one of those “Meh” movies. It’s not that good, but it’s not really that bad either. It’s just kind of there. While the steamier elements of the story end up being quite effective, without the danger it all kind of fizzles.