Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
United Kingdom/USA, 1987. Cineplex Odeon Films, HandMade Films. Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley. Cinematography by Fred Murphy. Produced by Tony Bill, Forrest Murray. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by Adrianne Lobel. Costume Design by Peggy Farrell. Film Editing by Andy Blumenthal.
John Patrick Shanley pays tribute to the Bronx of his childhood with his script for a film released the same year as his Academy Award-winning work on Moonstruck. John Turturro plays a mentally deranged bully who has just been released from prison after having gone in for trying to rape a young woman from the neighbourhood (Jodie Foster). She’s scared that he’ll come after her again, not reassured by her sometimes boyfriend (Todd Graff) who swears to protect her but who was permanently injured by Turturro the last time he tried to get in his way. She appeals to another old friend (Tim Robbins) who was once one of the roughest kids in the neighbourhood, to help her, but he has been inspired by the death of his cop father to abandon his juvenile violent ways and is planning to go south to Mississippi to help fight for civil rights, something his mother (Kathleen Chalfant) is not the least bit happy about. Weaved into this heavy drama is a diverting story about two women (Elizabeth Berridge, Cathryn de Prume) who hook up with two scrappy young men (Rodney Harvey, Daniel Jenkins) and cruise around town with them, taking recreational drugs and riding the roofs of elevators for kicks. The balance between humour and some very upsetting drama isn’t pitched exactly right, the story of the foursome couple is genuinely pleasant while the inclusion of a bow-and-arrow murderer plays like black comedy, then things lean heavily towards serious drama when Turturro reveals his truly psychotic side in the finale, his final scene with his mother the best sequence in the entire film. Whatever its flaws, the characters are all cherishable, the sense of the period is palpable and the performances (especially Chalfant) are wonderful.
Toronto International Film Festival: 1987