Nothing like a weird double-bill on Turkey-Picking Friday (this holiday needs a proper name, doesn't it?) and my double bill was as weird as they come: Scorsese's The Departed with the late Robert Altman's 1974 Thieves Like Us. It would have been smarter to have hooked up Thieves Like Us with a movie it resembles, O Brother Where Art Thou? As in Altman's earlier film, the Coens start their story with the a break from a Mississippi chain gang. The Coens seem to have also based Michael Badalucco's Baby Face Nelson on John Schuck's Chickamaw from the Altman: Chickamaw being the most dangerous component of a trio of dashing, successful and generally non-violent bankrobber. Schuck has the same unstable exuberance that George Clooney's Everett diagnoses, in his cornpone way, as Nelson's bi-polar syndrome. (The line, from "Well ya know Delmar, they say that with a thrill-seekin' personality, what goes up must come down. Top of the world one minute, haunted by megrims the next.") Schuck's hearty killer is just as moody, because he's a hard drinker. Worse, at one point Chickamaw is drinking bootleg "jake" -- a patent medicine adulterated with neurotoxins, and here's a link to that bizarre piece of toxic Americana.

categories Features, Cinematical