Directed by Robert Altman
Starring Matthew Modine, Mitchel Lichtenstein, David Alan Grier, Michael Wright
“Prejudice squints when it looks, and lies when it talks”
Duchess de Abrantes
When the cinematic world lost Robert Altman in 2006, it lost one of most unique voices in filmmaking. From M.A.S.H, Short Cuts, 3 Women and Nashville (just to name a few), a film fan could depend on Altman to bring a fresh and distinctive perspective to the stories he chose. So, how does the film Streamers (1938) based on the award winning play written by David Rabe rate in the overall filmography of Altman?
The year is 1965 and in Virginia, three soldiers await deployment to Vietnam. The only thing they have in common is being in the military.
Roger (David Alan Grier) is a young black man, enthusiastic about his service and protecting his fellow soldiers. Billy (Matthew Modine) is sweet and smart and a bit more inexperienced compared to the more streetwise Roger.
Richie (Mitchell Lichtenstein) is an interesting soldier. He is funny and sarcastic. His fellow soldiers tease him about being gay, but of course he never confirms their suspicions.
Enter into the picture Carlyle (Michael Wright). He is in search of Roger. As they converse, it is noted by an ever increasingly uncomfortable Billy that Carlyle seems to have a growing interest in Richie.
It is from this atmosphere of suspicion and unease that the soldiers will square off and fight about everything from homosexuality to race and to class.
The war has begun before they ever set foot in Saigon. It is will be a day none of them will soon forget.
It is a difficult task to bring a play to a film. Sometimes, it is a flawless translation, as is the case with the David Mamet film Glengarry Glen Ross. Other times, it just feels awkward. This is one that works, for the most part. Altman decided to make this film more as a “filmed play”, so don’t be surprised when you see an actor speaking with the camera focused on him, then a cut to another character and then back to the actor in the middle of his “speech”. So, what I am trying to say is that this film is not shot to have the sweeping vistas of Kurosawa’s Ran.
Back to the subject at hand. The actors, especially David Alan Grier and Michael Wright, all turn in top notch performances. And the outcome of the film is unexpected, so that was a plus.
Do I think this is one of Altman’s best films? No, not in my opinion. But did I enjoy my evening watching this film? Yes, I did.
All things considered, this Shout Factory release of this little recognized Altman gem is worth your time. Add it to the Netflix queue, gets some friends together, and let the arguments commence.
Streamers is presented in widescreen The colors are vibrant and the overall image is very respectable. The black levels could be more dense.
Streamers is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mix. Dialogue is crystal clear and well mixed. This isn’t going to give the home theater a work out, but is serviceable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Streamers is standard amaray case with a rather uninspired cover.
The only bonus feature offered on this release is A Look Back at Streamers With Cast Members From the Film and Stage which sounds exactly like you would expect.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (not an average) 6.5/10