“I shoulda robbed people with my brain instead of a gun.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Parallels between Thieves Like Us and Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) are inevitable, given that both tell stories about “everyday” citizens during the Depression who are drawn to the glory and seemingly simple allure of bank robberies (indeed, no guards or policemen are ever shown nearby; Carradine and his team simply get away without a problem). To that end, Altman noticeably chooses “to treat the action sequences the same as the dialogue scenes, without suspense or exciting climaxes” — most likely because “Carradine himself doesn’t regard the robberies and shootouts as particularly interesting events in his life”; he’s much more concerned with making it back to his true love, “simple, scrawny” Keechie (Duvall), who possesses a strange appeal despite her odd looks (it’s easy to see why Carradine’s needy character falls for her). Duvall is excellent here, as are Carradine and the other male leads. Schuck — playing a psychopath — becomes increasingly terrifying as the film progresses, while Remsen is uniquely memorable as the oldest of the three thieves, who nonetheless possesses the strongest libido.
As always with Altman’s best films, part of the allure of Thieves Like Us is waiting to see how events will unfold, since nothing is telegraphed ahead of time, and Altman strategically leaves out certain “key” scenes (i.e., only one bank robbery of several is actually shown on film, and the death of a major character is simply mentioned). Throughout, we feel like we’re simply watching “real life” as it happens — which is why the bloody climax (which deviates noticeably from the film’s previous air of hyper-realism) is a bit of a let-down; Altman utilizes slow-motion rather than allowing the scene to play out in “real time” as it should. This is a minor complaint, however, about an otherwise bleakly powerful film, one which leaves a lasting effect, and should be seen by all film fanatics at least once.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: