Jerry Bick

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Thieves Like Us Review


Excellent
Those watching Robert Altman's 1974 Depression-era robbers-on-the-run film Thieves Like Us and looking for a Bonnie and Clyde-style antiheroic odyssey -- charismatic young lovers, blaze of glory, the whole deal -- will come away severely disappointed. Altman, fortunately, has other things on his mind than building up legends and stoking the coals of nostalgia. His robbers aren't savage animals, but they're far from dashing; opportunistic, venal, and unable to plan their lives more than five minutes into the future is a more apt description.

A languorous single take opens the film, sweeping across verdant Mississippi countryside being traversed by a railcar carrying a chain gang and armed guards, before spying a couple of other prisoners rowing their way across a pond, chatting about things inconsequential. A third accomplice shows up with a car and some civilian clothes. The car breaks down, they take off on foot. Eventually the trio -- a couple of hard cases, T-Dub (Bert Remsen) and Chickamaw (John Schuck), and one fresh-faced young Ozark farmboy, Bowie (Keith Carradine) previously serving life for a murder committed at 16 -- wind up at a relative's place, where they hide out and plan their first robbery. Because the three, who continually refer to themselves as "thieves," never seem to consider even for a moment to do anything but just keeping on robbing and running. And so they do.

Continue reading: Thieves Like Us Review

Swing Shift Review


Excellent
Do the people who write the back of video boxes and DVD cases watch the movies they profile? Looking at the video box of my old copy of Swing Shift, the 1984 drama about life at home during World War II, you would think you're watching an overdramatic look at patriotism run rampant.

"There was no other time like it, and it changed our way of life forever," the box's text proclaims. The movie casts "a nostalgic eye on a time when ordinary citizens bonded to accomplish extraordinary things."

Continue reading: Swing Shift Review

The Long Goodbye Review


Good
Robert Altman took a Raymond Chandler/Philip Marlowe novel -- God knows why -- and cast Elliot Gould as a private eye investigating a friend's death in the colorful 1970s, a far cry from the noirs of Bogie's Marlowe. It ends up with mixed results -- Marlowe is drawn as a goofy daydreamer (Altman calls him Rip Van Marlowe) and his story only gets interesting when Sterling Hayden, channeling Hemingway, goes bananas.
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