Fed up with the inhumane prison living conditions, a general prison riot breaks out, leading to hostage-taking, a stand-off with the guards and eventual negotiations with the prison administration officials.
On a city's mean streets, the boys join gangs at 15. Frankie leads the Hornets: he's 18, seething, coiled. When a neighbor goes to the cops after seeing one of the Hornets with a zip gun, Frankie vows to kill the old guy, hatching a plan using Lou, who smiles and smokes, and "Baby," the 15-year-old son of an immigrant shopkeeper. Ben Wagner, the social worker at a neighborhood settlement house, gets wind of the plan and tries to break through to Frankie. Frankie's brother Richie, who's about 12, worships and fears Frankie; he also figures out what his brother is up to. Is Frankie doomed to crash and burn at 18? Written by
I just saw this movie at the Don S. film festival at Film Forum, and this movie was surprisingly better than I could have expected. While it is a little preachy at times, the performances by Cassevetes and Mineo are mind-blowing in how touching and nuanced they are at such a young age.
From the beginning it is clear that this film was made on a small set in Hollywood, but you quickly forget about this and can easily become wrapped up in the story - an almost reverse Crime and Punishment parable. Cassevetes and Mineo overcome an of the actors' deficiencies even though most of the other performances such as the mother, Mineo's father, are also superb (the only truly cornball performances come from the preachy social worker, the sappy little brother and a couple of the stereotyped gang members).
The director does an amazing job of making this small slum world feel so small (the set is probably half a city block in size on the set) and tense.
Film Forum displayed Scorcese's personal copy, which was unfortunately quite damaged. Hopefully, the studio which owns this film will reprint a clean 35 mm copy or print a restored DVD. For fans of the "youth gone wild" genre or simple of Cassevetes, this movie is a true waiting-to-be rediscovered gem
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