Given the drug-war crime wave that’s lately swept Mexico, “The Old Thieves,” a close-up look at some “gentlemen” criminals from the ’60s and ’70s, can’t help but take on a certain nostalgic quality. Everardo Gonzalez’s docu, which has snared some fest prizes and nabbed Ariel noms last year for picture and director in its native land, illuminates a period when robbers operated by a code that included avoidance of violence and taking only from the wealthy. Nonstop talking heads will limit this absorbing piece largely to Spanish-language territories, chiefly on the tube.
Dominant figure here is Efrain Alcaraz Montes de Oca, who became an instant legend when he robbed the home of then-president Luis Echeverria Alvarez in the early ’70s. Interviewed, like four other old crims, in prison, “El Carrizos” emphasizes the “honor” and “ethics” of his m.o., while also detailing the unsavory interconnectedness of robbers and law enforcement at the time. Seemingly all destined to die behind bars, the subjects, who started their careers as teen petty criminals, speak with disarming frankness about their good old days. Archival footage of Mexico City a half-century ago is fantastic.