Highways, delivery trucks, post-Ellis Island immigrants, fierce competition—all this makes Jules Dassin’s 1949 Hollywood piece, Thieves’ Highway, a distinctly American film. But that’s not all.
Many, many bad things are done by the people in this film. The chief theme is the struggle to make a living in the midst of corruption. It’s a shame, in point of fact, that the harsh fruit merchant acted by Lee J. Cobb is a caricature—he’s extremely corrupt—but there you have it. Though the movie’s sophistication starts slipping in its last twenty or twenty-five minutes, Thieves’ Highway—screenwritten by A.I. Bezzerides (whose novel Thieves’ Market is the source for this picture)—is not only exciting but also gritty and as concerned as it can be about verisimilitude. A corker.