Thieves Like Us

Overview

Released in the same 12-month span as Terrence Malick's Badlands 1973 and Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express 1974, Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us 1974 also tells a story of doomed outlaws in love. Depression-era criminals T-Dub Bert Remsen, Chicamaw John Schuck, and Bowie Keith Carradine band together to rob banks after escaping from a prison farm. Hiding out with Dee Mobley Tom Skerritt and Keechie Shelley Duvall, and then with T-Dub's in-law Mattie Louise Fletcher between bank jobs, the three crooks are ...
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Overview

Released in the same 12-month span as Terrence Malick's Badlands 1973 and Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express 1974, Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us 1974 also tells a story of doomed outlaws in love. Depression-era criminals T-Dub Bert Remsen, Chicamaw John Schuck, and Bowie Keith Carradine band together to rob banks after escaping from a prison farm. Hiding out with Dee Mobley Tom Skerritt and Keechie Shelley Duvall, and then with T-Dub's in-law Mattie Louise Fletcher between bank jobs, the three crooks are a loyal group, but increasingly sensational news accounts of their bloodless robberies force them to split up before their next crime. After a car accident, Chicamaw leaves the injured Bowie in Keechie's care. Love blossoms between the two naïfs, compelling Bowie to find a way to balance his bond to Keechie with his loyalty to his friends and the need for money to head for Mexico. With the law closing in, Bowie and Keechie learn the hard way about the finite honor among thieves, and the need to survive. Adapted from the same Edward Anderson novel as Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night 1949, Altman, writers Calder Willingham and Joan Tewkesbury, and Altman's acting "regulars" reworked not just the classical crime movie but also the 1967 hit Bonnie and Clyde, presenting a resolutely unglamorous portrait of this Coke-swilling outlaw couple and the survivors' stoic drive to carry on. With the radio providing soundtrack and commentary, and the newspapers sending a veiled warning, Bowie and Keechie cannot escape the outside world, but they also cannot transcend it into the realm of myth. Rather than turning the crimes into stylish exploits, Altman's camera remains outside most of the robberies, observing the banal action on the street; he saves the slow-motion in the climactic shoot-out for the witnesses rather than the dead. His zoom shots hover between fragments of emotion and place, while they maintain their observational distance. Unfortunately for Altman and Malick and Spielberg, audiences preferred outlaw glamour to genre-bending introspection. Still, with its deceptively laid-back tone, eye for expressive detail, and ear for ironic juxtaposition, Thieves Like Us takes its place in Altman's exceptional body of early 1970s work.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Like the masterful McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Thieves Like Us finds Robert Altman taking a revisionist look at America's past; also like McCabe, it is rhythmically lyrical, visually beautiful (even when its surroundings fail to be "pretty"), and compassionate yet pitiless in its portrayal of misfits and losers on the wrong side of the law. Altman flawlessly evokes the languid pace and hazy, decaying beauty of the Deep South. While Thieves Like Us has more than a few parallels to Bonnie and Clyde and to Nicholas Ray's 1949 They Live By Night, based on the same novel, Altman finds a distinctive poetry and tragedy in the story, and its effects linger in the memory long after the film is over. In one of the least glamorous love stories in 1970s cinema, Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall are ideal as Bowie and Keechie, and Altman makes several other inspired casting choices: John Schuck, often a comic-relief lummox, is electrifying as the violently short-tempered Chickamaw; Bert Remsen is right on target as the tragically short-sighted veteran criminal T-Dub, and future Oscar winner Louise Fletcher, in only her second film role, is superb as Mattie, both benefactor and nemesis to the thieves. Along with Nashville and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us ranks with the best of Altman's work.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/1/1998
  • UPC: 027616478238
  • Original Release: 1974
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Keith Carradine Bowie
Shelley Duvall Keechie
John Schuck Chicamaw
Bert Remsen T-Dub
Louise Fletcher Mattie
Josephine Bennett
Walter Cooper
Lloyd Jones Sheriffs
Howard Warner Bank Hostages
Tom Skerritt Dee Mobley
Arch Hall Sr. Alvin
Joan Tewkesbury Lady in Train Station
Nicholas Merriwether Alvin
Eleanor Matthews Mrs. Stammers
Pam Warner Woman in Accident
Suzanne Majure Coca-Cola Girl
Ann Latham Lula
Al Scott Capt. Stammers
John Roper Jasbo
Mary Waits Noel
Rodney Lee Jr. James Mattingly
William Watters Alvin
Technical Credits
Robert Altman Director, Screenwriter
Jerry Bick Producer
Jean Boffety Cinematographer
Scott Bushnell Consultant/advisor
Jackson de Govia Consultant/advisor, Production Designer
George Litto Producer
Lou Lombardo Editor
Joan Tewkesbury Screenwriter
Calder Willingham Screenwriter
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