Thieves Like Us Robert Altman

Thieves Like Us isn’t just good, it’s amazing — a tonal masterpiece that’s all the more startling for its being largely neglected. Robert Altman takes the book that formed the basis of Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night and reduces it to downtime — there’s very little fuss over gangsters knocking over Depression-era banks and quite a bit about their interactions and felicities. Keith Carradine is the main suspect who escapes from prison with John Schuck. They go on a bank-robbing binge with Bert Ramsen, while Carradine dallies with Shelley Duvall. That’s sort of it. The film is astonishing for its quiet — you’re simply strapped in with the four leads and their various fellow travellers as they joke, read about their exploits in the paper, fight, make up and ultimately, seal their doom. Without casting them as total victims, the film is sympathetic; without casting them as villains, the film is anti-heroic. And though the story is ultimately tragic, it comes with a large dollop of regret that certain people get washed out in the flow of their lives. Though one thinks of great films in terms of showboating sequences and triumphant moments, this is one that seeps into your bones — it gets you into the rhythm of the characters’ lives so much that you’ll be surprised at how hypnotised you become. This is an example of genre revisionism to place with the master’s great The Long Goodbye, and though it’s long been a darling of Altman fans and specialists it’s time for this movie to be publicly synonymous with the word "Altman.” The only extra is a memory-laden commentary track from the late director himself. (MGM / Sony)