Racing With the Moon

US (1984): Drama/Comedy
108 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's Christmas, 1942, and Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage are two Northern California small-town boys who are due to report to the Marines in six weeks; Penn falls in love with a new girl in town (Elizabeth McGovern), and Cage gets a girl pregnant. That's the whole movie. Penn brings his role emotional crosscurrents and creates a lived-in character; you see the full person, with nothing closed off. And Richard Benjamin directs all three lovingly, so that the nuances they bring to their roles sustain our interest. But the picture isn't enough of anything; there isn't a thing in it that you can get excited about or quarrel with. The script, written by Steven Kloves (when he was 22), might be an exercise in conventional fine writing; it's a reminiscence based on earlier reminiscences. And the movie doesn't feel firsthand. It's too smooth, and it's square. With the lively Shawn Schepps as a girl that McGovern double-dates with, Carol Kane as an agreeable flooze, Arnold Johnson as a tattoo artist, and also Max Showalter as the piano teacher, John Karlen as Penn's father, Rutanya Alda as his mother, and Suzanne Adkinson as the pregnant Sally. Cinematography by John Bailey. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Radio Days

US (1987): Comedy
85 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Woody Allen looks back fondly, in a warm, amber-toned reminiscence of what radio meant to him and his family at the start of the Second World War. The actors who make up the 11-year-old hero's lower-middle-class Jewish family in Rockaway Beach are a wonderful group of comedians--Michael Tucker, Julie Kavner, Josh Mostel, Renee Lippin, Joy Newman, Dianne Wiest--yet they're never up close, at the center of our attention. Allen has reduced everyone to harmlessness. It's pure nostalgia--the past sweetened and trivialized. The mood is soft regret: he treats the old songs (the film incorporates a generous assortment of hits) as a value that we've lost. As he spells it out, the public's memories of the stars of radio become dimmer each year. The question the film asks--its theme--is "Will our fame last?" Implicitly, he's saying that we movie stars (and TV stars) must learn humility. With Mia Farrow as the one character whom we follow over a period of years, as she rises from cigarette girl to jewel-decked radio star, and Seth Green as the boy, Gina DeAngelis, Danny Aiello, Denise Dummont, Tito Puente, Jeff Daniels, Tony Roberts, Wallace Shawn, and Diane Keaton. The cinematography is by Carlo Di Palma. Orion.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins

US (1975): Comedy
92 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

A charmingly inconsequential film with a sidewise vision that sneaks up on you. Two girls (Sally Kellerman as an aspiring singer, and softer and more flexible than in her earlier performances, and Mackenzie Phillips, as a hard-shelled, foul-mouthed teenager) kidnap a man (Alan Arkin) and force him, at gunpoint, to drive them from Los Angeles to Arizona; the film is about how they begin to care for each other. The script, by John Kaye, is slight but it sustains a half-fantasy, balloon-going-up mood and the director, Dick Richards, shows a feeling for momentary encounters; what might be throwaways for another director are his most acutely realized moments. He's a very companionable sort of director here, with humor based on affection for rejects and outsiders. Well acted by the three principals (Alan Arkin loosens up, for a change), and also by Alex Rocco as a scrounger who attaches himself to the scruffy trio, and by Harry Dean Stanton, with his hollowed face (as if he'd worn away whatever life was in him). Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Rage of Paris

US (1938): Romance
75 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Hollywood's attempt to make an American star of the rapturously beautiful young Danielle Darrieux--it's easy to see why it failed. In this innocuous bedroom farce, the arch frilliness of Universal's conception of a jeune fille robs her of any depth. She is cast as a poor French girl working as a model in New York; financed by Helen Broderick and Mischa Auer, she sets out to capture a millionaire. Under the direction of Henry Koster (who, after leaving Germany, had made his reputation here on the Deanna Durbin musicals), Darrieux pouts relentlessly, and after many misadventures wins Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Raggedy Man

US (1981): Drama
94 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Sissy Spacek gives a delicate performance--one of her softest and least eccentric--as the telephone operator who runs the phone company out of her two-room house, in a little town in Texas, during the Second World War. Deserted by her husband, she's raising her two small boys alone and she's cooped up--tied to the switchboard--and feeling desperate. (She dances with a broom, to The Andrews Sisters' "Rum & Coca Cola.") A young sailor on leave (Eric Roberts) drops by to make a long-distance call, and a warm friendship begins to build. Spacek and Roberts and the two child actors have surprising, evocative, believable dialogue, and their vocal inflections and rhythms are lovely. But then Roberts is sent away, and the story takes a literary, gothic turn that violates the film's best qualities. And some of the scenes have been so lyrically fresh and involving that when the tone goes off, a viewer can feel really affronted. The first-time director, Jack Fisk, who early on worked with David Lynch and then made his name as an art director (BADLANDS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, CARRIE, DAYS OF HEAVEN), gives us flowing, expressive images that linger in the memory. (There are dissolves with an orange-pink light.) What also lingers in the memory are some of the performances Fisk gets: Spacek in particular, who seems grown up (she's married to Fisk, and he brings out another side of her), and Roberts, who is unexpectedly simple and open. (He has a wonderful listening-on-the-phone scene that's like a Dear John letter.) And the kids (Henry Thomas, who went on to play Elliott in E.T., and Carey Hollis, Jr.) are unaffected. The cast includes R.G. Armstrong as Spacek's boss (he seems too loud), and, in hopelessly melodramatic roles, Sam Shepard, Tracey Walter, and William Sanderson. The screenplay is by the talented William D. Wittliff; he wrote a farewell scene for Roberts and the kids that's too pixilated to be sentimental--it's a beauty. The cinematography is by Ralf Bode; the music is by Jerry Goldsmith. Universal.

Raging Bull

US (1980): Sports/Biography
128 min, Rated R, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Martin Scorsese's film based on the life of the former middleweight champ Jake LaMotta (played by Robert De Niro) is a biography of the prizefight genre; it's also about movies and about violence, it's about gritty visual rhythm, it's about Brando, it's about the two GODFATHER pictures--it's about Scorsese and De Niro's trying to top what they've done and what everybody else has done. Scorsese puts his unmediated obsessions on the screen, trying to turn raw, pulp power into art by removing it from the particulars of observation and narrative. He loses the lowlife entertainment values of prizefight films; he aestheticizes pulp and kills it. De Niro put on more than 50 pounds to play the older, drunken LaMotta; he seems a swollen puppet. With Cathy Moriarty, whose Vickie LaMotta is a beautiful icon--a big, lacquered virgin-doll of the 40s--and Joe Pesci as Joey LaMotta. (De Niro won the Academy Award for Best Actor.) An Irwin Winkler-Robert Chartoff Production; released by United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Ragtime

US (1981): Historical
155 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The movie doesn't have an impudent slapstick vision, isn't a pop epic, or even a satiric fling. It's limp--it always seems to be aiming about halfway toward the effects that E.L. Doctorow achieved in his literary extravaganza. Is it possible that the director, Miloš Forman, thought that if he didn't go for razzle-dazzle what was left would be "truth?" If so, he started from the wrong book. He has made a seriously intended eccentric movie about a black piano player (Howard E. Rollins, Jr.) who demands redress for an insult. (Dog excrement has been put on the seat of his shiny new Model T Ford.) When the piano player can't find a legal remedy, he becomes a bomb-planting terrorist. But the picture isn't even socially conscious: this character is so totally, aberrantly unbelievable that there's no social milieu that could account for him, and we don't know on what conceivable basis he could have recruited his band of urban guerrillas. Forman is not--to put it courteously--strongly visual. His extras are generally posed frozen faced in a row in the background--they look exactly like extras. The narrative shifts are jerky; the film seems chewed up rather than edited. With James Cagney as the New York Police Commissioner; returning to the screen after a 20-year retirement, Cagney has the faint, satisfied smile of an old tiger. Also with Pat O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Norman Mailer, Elizabeth McGovern, Mary Steenburgen, Mandy Patinkin, Kenneth McMillan, Moses Gunn, Brad Dourif, Robert Joy, and James Olson. Script by Michael Weller. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis; Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

US (1981): Adventure
115 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Steven Spielberg directed this high-powered cliff-hanger about the exploits of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), an adventurer-archeologist. The time is 1936, and Indy, working for the United States government, is trying to find the Ark of the Covenant (a chest holding the broken stone tablets of the Ten Commandments) ahead of his arch-enemy, the suave, amoral Belloq (Paul Freeman), who is in cahoots with the Nazis. Hitler means to use the Ark's invincible powers to lay waste opposing armies and proclaim himself the Messiah. Conceived by George Lucas, the picture is an amalgam of Lucas's follies--plot for its own sake, dissociated from character or drama; the affectless heroine, Marion (Karen Allen), who's a tougher version of spunky Princess Leia in STAR WARS--AND effects that Spielberg the youthful magician has already dazzled us with. Kinesthetically, the film gets to you, but there's no exhilaration, and no surge of feeling at the end. It seems to be edited for the maximum number of showings per day. With John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, Ronald Lacey as Toht, and Denholm Elliott. Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe; score by John Williams. Written by Lawrence Kasdan, from a story idea worked up by Lucas and Phil Kaufman. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was the first film of a trilogy; it was followed by INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989). A Lucasfilm, released by Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Rain

US (1932): Drama
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Joan Crawford is the innocent-at-heart tramp Sadie Thompson in this version of the Somerset Maugham wheezer, adapted by Maxwell Anderson and directed by Lewis Milestone. Crawford is the most unnuanced actress imaginable, and her interpretation of Sadie has absolutely no delicacy. Yet this time her desperate earnestness is fixating. With all the emotion she pours on, and her flashing eyes and twisted-scar mouth and strained voice, she's so totally affected that the affectation begins to seem natural. Her vitality is undeniable. As the sanctimonious Reverend Davidson (Hollywood's archetypal lustful hypocrite), Walter Huston has some startlingly shrewd moments, but the production is stilted and claustrophobic--obviously, the dated stage version of the Maugham story dominated the moviemakers' thinking. With William Gargan, Beulah Bondi, Guy Kibbee, and Matt Moore. United Artists.

Rain Man

US (1988): Drama
140 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Dustin Hoffman is Raymond, an autistic savant who lives in an institution in Cincinnati, and Tom Cruise is his huckster brother Charlie, an LA car dealer, who kidnaps him, hoping to get hold of some of the $3 million that their father has left in trust for Raymond's care. Hoffman keeps his actor's engine chugging and upstages the movie; Cruise's performance consists of not smiling too much-so as not to distract his fans from watching Hoffman. The director, Barry Levinson-it's his temperament- stretches out the scenes until they yawn. But the picture has its effectiveness: people cry at it. Of course, they cry at it-it's a piece of wet kitsch. With Valeria Golino; Ronald Bass was the principal screenwriter. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Hoffman), Original Screenplay. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

The Rain People

US (1969): Drama
102 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

There's a prodigious amount of talent in Francis Ford Coppola's unusual, little-seen film, but it's a ponderously self-conscious effort; the writer-director applies his film craftsmanship with undue solemnity to material that suggests a gifted college student's imitation of early Tennessee Williams. The result is academic, and never believable. Shirley Knight is atrociously mannered as a pregnant woman who leaves home and picks up a brain-damaged hitchhiker (James Caan). With Robert Duvall as a motorcycle cop. Warners.

The Rainbow

UK (1989): Drama
104 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The pastoral locations are grassy vistas that seem to melt before your eyes, and the images suggest that the material--the second half of the D.H. Lawrence novel about marriage--is being approached with humility and seriousness. This isn't one of the director Ken Russell's lurid, campy pictures. But his underlying attitudes haven't really changed; the campiness is simply more restrained, and the movie is amorphous and unsatisfying. As Ursula Brangwen, who (in the novel) yearns for sexual and spiritual union, Sammi Davis seems merely petulant. One of the pioneering feminist heroines--a woman who represents an advance on previous generations, a woman on a quest--has been turned into a snippy, closed-off brat. Glenda Jackson and Christopher Gable are surprisingly relaxed (and effective) as Ursula's parents, and David Hemmings is very smooth as her smiling, corrupt uncle. Also with Paul McGann as Ursula's conventional-minded fiancé, who hates her whenever she expresses her feelings, and Amanda Donohoe and Dudley Sutton. The adaptation is by Russell and his wife, Vivian. Cinematography by Billy Williams. (Russell filmed WOMEN IN LOVE, the successor to THE RAINBOW, in 1969.) Vestron.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

The Rainmaker

US (1956): Comedy
121 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The cowtown spinster suffering from drought is Katharine Hepburn, and the man who delivers the rain is Burt Lancaster. The casting is just about perfect. Lancaster has an athletic role, in which he can also be very touching. His con man isn't a simple trickster; he's a poet and dreamer who needs to convince people of his magical powers. Hepburn is stringy and tomboyish, believably plain yet magnetically beautiful. This is a fairy tale (the ugly duckling) dressed up as a bucolic comedy and padded out with metaphysical falsies, but it is also genuinely appealing, in a crude, good-spirited way, though N. Richard Nash, who wrote both the play and the adaptation, aims too solidly at lower-middle-class tastes. Once transformed, the heroine rejects the poet for the deputy sheriff (Wendell Corey); if there were a sequel, she might be suffering from the drought of his imagination. With Lloyd Bridges, Earl Holliman, Cameron Prud'homme, and Wallace Ford. The director is Joseph Anthony, who also staged it on Broadway; the movie barely exists as a movie, but if you accept it as an "opened-out" play it's highly enjoyable. Music by Alex North. Produced by Hal B. Wallis, for Paramount.

Raintree County

US (1957): Historical
168 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A full-scale mess set during the Civil War. Based on the 1948 novel by Ross Lockridge, the script is so literary and chaotic it seems demented. At the start, the movie is all chatter and there's no hook to get us into the story; later, the sequences don't flow together. As a rich, orphaned Southern belle (whose part-black ancestry is concealed), Elizabeth Taylor is soft-faced, with a ripe, full-lipped smile, and in the early scenes she's amusingly flirty and squealy. But as a handsome abolitionist Yankee, Montgomery Clift is in real trouble. It was in 1956, in the middle of making this picture, that he was disfigured in a car accident; he looks awful, he seems in agony, and his acting is mannered and odd. (Taylor, who's relatively unaffected, gives a better performance, even though all the fun goes out of her role.) The director, Edward Dmytryk, let by two major booby-prize performances: Walter Abel (actory-phony) and Agnes Moorehead (fake-jolly) as Clift's parents. But then this is the kind of movie in which a heavenly choir is heard while Taylor and Clift talk about the legendary magical rain tree. The cast includes Eva Marie Saint (who looks incredibly pretty), Rod Taylor, Lee Marvin, Nigel Patrick, Tom Drake, DeForest Kelley, and Gardner McKay. The screenplay is by Millard Kaufman; Johnny Green's music seems to be trying to create moods, but you get the feeling he's unsure what they should be. MGM.

Raising Arizona

US (1987): Comedy
92 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This broad farce is no big deal, but it has a cornpone-surreal quality and a rambunctious charm. It's about baby love--about people who feel they can't live without an infant to cuddle. When Edwina, or Ed--played by Holly Hunter--discovers she can't have a child, she's a wreck until she hears about male quintuplets that have been born to a woman who took fertility drugs; then she torments her husband, Hi (Nicolas Cage), until he goes to steal one of them. As soon as Hi plunks a quint into her arms, she yowls, "I love him so much!" Hi and Ed live in a yellow mobile home in a Tempe, Arizona, trailer park at the edge of a Pop-art version of the desert. Everything in the film is warped and flipped out; the light seems fluorescent, as if the world were a 24-hour supermarket. Joel and Ethan Coen, who did the writing together--Joel directed and Ethan produced (with Mark Silverman)--have a knack for hick-suburban dialogue (it's backed up by banjos and, sometimes, a yodeller). And the film is storyboarded like a comic strip; it has a galumphing tempo. With John Goodman and William Forsythe as the escaped-convict brothers who become gaga over the babe, Trey Wilson as the quints' hardheaded father, Randall ("Tex") Cobb as the biker, and Frances McDormand and Sam McMurray. Cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld. Released by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Rambo: First Blood Part II

US (1985): War/Adventure
95 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Jump-cutting from one would-be high point to another, RAMBO is to the action film what FLASHDANCE was to the musical, with one to-be-cherished difference: audiences are laughing at it. (They hoot at it and get a little charged up at the same time.) The proceedings are directed by George P. Cosmatos and he gives the near-psychotic material--a mixture of Catholic iconography and Soldier of Fortune pulp--a veneer of professionalism, but the looniness is always there. The film's star and progenitor is Sylvester Stallone, and the way he's photographed he's huge--our national palooka. This humanoid Christ figure with brown leather skin and symmetrical scars goes into Vietnam and brings out a bunch of our missing-in-action men. The film specializes in scenes such as Rambo spread-eagled on an electrified rack, Rambo branded on the face with a red-hot knife, Rambo immersed in pig glop while hanging crucifixion-style. With Julia Nickson, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, George Kee Cheung, and Martin Kove. Cinematography by Jack Cardiff; screenplay by Stallone and James Cameron, from a story by Kevin Jarre, based on the characters from David Morrell's novel First Blood. Tri-Star.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Ran

France-Japan (1985): War/Historical
161 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Set in the 16th century, Akira Kurosawa's epic spectacle, a variation on the theme of King Lear, is static, but it deepens, and it has its own ornery splendor. It's a totally conceptualized work--perhaps the biggest piece of conceptual art ever made. For the first 40 minutes or so, the picture is all preparation, and it seems dead, but then the preparation begins to pay off, and by the end the fastidiousness and the monumental scale of what Kurosawa has undertaken can flood you with admiration. With Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede, the vengeful demon who brings down the House of Ichimonji; Tatsuya Nakadai as the warlord head of the clan; the Japanese transvestite pop star known as Peter as the Fool; and Hisashi Ikawa as Kurogane, who defies Lady Kaede. The fine, harsh, percussive score is by Toru Takemitsu. (2 hours and 41 minutes.) In Japanese. A French-Japanese co-production, released in the U.S. by Orion.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Rancho Deluxe

US (1975): Western/Comedy
93 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Tom McGuane wrote the script for this flip, absurdist modern Western. Jeff Bridges plays a dropout from the upper middle class, and Sam Waterston plays a wryly bemused Indian. These two pranksters rustle cattle because the facetious machismo of it appeals to them; they do it "to keep from falling asleep." Their sly asides are too kicky, too pleased; the self-conscious cleverness isn't as charming as it's meant to be. McGuane sets up some funny situations, but the film's deadpan distancing makes everything seem anticlimactic. Things brighten up whenever Harry Dean Stanton or Richard Bright or Slim Pickens is on the screen. Frank Perry directed; with Elizabeth Ashley, Charlene Dallas, and Clifton James. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Rancho Notorious

US (1952): Western
89 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Not one of the films that Fritz Lang will be remembered for. Lang said that this Western was conceived for Marlene Dietrich (she plays an aging femme fatale, a retired dance-hall hostess who operates a hideout for outlaw gangs) but that by the time it was finished he and Dietrich had stopped speaking to each other. Financed by Howard Hughes, though on a small scale, it was shot mostly in the studio; the picture was to be called "Chuck-a-Luck" and Lang used the ballad "The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck" as an integral theme song, but afterward Hughes changed the title. (The picture was also recut.) Possibly even under the best of circumstances the mixture of Lang's conspiratorial motifs with the Western characters and locale might not have worked out. Arthur Kennedy is a cowpuncher obsessed with getting revenge for the rape and murder of his fiancée, and Mel Ferrer is Frenchy, a Western variant of Lang's master criminals. With Gloria Henry, William Frawley, Jack Elam, Dan Seymour, George Reeves, Lloyd Gough, and Fuzzy Knight. RKO.

Random Harvest

US (1942): Drama
126 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Ronald Colman is the amnesiac who falls in love with Greer Garson, having forgotten that he'd been in love with her before; he must be the only person lucky enough to forget that sticky, arch great lady of the screen. The only reason to see this hunk of twaddle is the better to savor the memory of the Carol Burnett-Harvey Korman parody, which also was shorter. Mervyn LeRoy, who directed many a big clinker, also gets the blame for this one; it's taken from a James Hilton novel, and MGM gave it the full false-English treatment. The cast includes Philip Dorn, Susan Peters, Reginald Owen, Margaret Wycherly, Peter Lawford, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor, Jill Esmond, Ian Wolfe, and Bramwell Fletcher.

Rashomon

Japan (1950): Drama
88 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In 9th-century Kyoto, a nobleman's bride is raped by a bandit; the nobleman is murdered, or possibly he is a suicide. This double crime is acted out four times, in the versions of the three participants, each giving an account that increases the prestige of his conduct, and in the version of a woodcutter who witnessed the episode. Continuously reconstructing the crime, RASHOMON asks, How can we ever know the truth? This great enigmatic film was directed by Akira Kurosawa, from stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (who died from an overdose of veronal). The introductory and closing sequences are tedious; the woman's whimpering is almost enough to drive one to the nearest exit. Yet the film transcends these discomforts: it has its own perfection. With Machiko Kyo, Toshiro Mifune as the bandit, Masayuki Mori as the samurai, Takashi Shimura as the woodcutter. First Prize, Venice; Academy Award, Best Foreign Film. (There was a Broadway version with Rod Steiger, and a 1964 movie, with Paul Newman, appropriately called THE OUTRAGE.) In Japanese.

Rasputin and the Empress

US (1932): Historical
123 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

The only film with all three Barrymores--John, Ethel, and Lionel--and they all seem to be stuffed. John had played the mesmerist Svengali the year before, so Lionel was decked out in a beard to play Rasputin. (The brothers seemed to have swapped chin hair.) The hammiest actor in the family, Lionel, who doddered even in his youth, is so unhypnotic that Ethel, as the Empress, appears less mesmerized than bored stiff. But when Rasputin, after being poisoned and shot and beaten, still refuses to die, there really seems to be something vile and supernatural about him. John finally gets to choke his brother, to everyone's immense satisfaction. With Ralph Morgan, as Nicholas, and Diana Wynyard. Directed, pompously, by Richard Boleslawski; the script is attributed to Charles MacArthur. MGM.

Raw Deal

US (1986): Action
97 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's reprehensible and enjoyable, the kind of movie that makes you feel brain dead in two minutes--after which point you're ready to laugh at its mixture of trashiness, violence, and startlingly silly crude humor. As a lawman who infiltrates the biggest mob in Chicago, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a puzzling, cartoon phenomenon, like a walking brick wall, and the director, John Irvin, sets the other characters to bouncing off that wall. The cast includes Kathryn Harrold, who shows the physical abandon of a good slapstick comedienne, Sam Wanamaker, who has some juicy, egocentric moments as the gangland boss, and Paul Shenar, Steven Hill, Darren McGavin, Ed Lauter, Robert Davi, Joe Regalbuto, and Blanche Baker. The script, cooked up by a couple of Italians (Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati), written by the erratic Norman Wexler, and then rewritten by Gary M. DeVore, still retains some of Wexler's rowdy spirit. The cinematography is by Alex Thomson. De Laurentiis.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

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