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Brian G. Hutton,
David J. Stewart
Three teenagers find a briefcase with a beat-up old can in it. They throw away the can and pawn the suitcase. When they read in the papers that the can was full of uncut heroin and belonged to a drug dealer who killed two narcotics agents in a shootout, they go back to look for the can, find it, and decide to go into the heroin selling business. However, the drug dealer's gang also wants the heroin, finds out the boys have it, and sets out to hunt them down and get back their dope. Written by
Three aimless young men find a briefcase containing a load of valuable heroin. So what are they going to do with it. Desperate, they end up trying to sell it through an ex-junkie. The trouble is the mob wants their heroin back and are on the trail of the kids. And so are the cops.
Given the potentially explosive material, the 90-minutes comes across as peculiarly lacking in drama. The motions are there, but not the felt impact. Much, I think, has to do with the quality of the performances. Of the three boys, Marlo manages some grit as Nick. However, Wexler and Haze (yes, that Haze) appear to flounder in stand-around bland fashion. Plus, poor Abby Dalton looks completely lost. Thus, the movie's core is compromised at the outset. Then too, the cops are a particularly colorless bunch, adding nothing to the impact. Kramer, at least, looks the part of a washed-up ex- junkie, getting the big dramatic turn of painful drug withdrawal, where he writhes in expressive fashion. It's a scary public warning.
Then again, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the movie's high point. Namely, where the boys thrash through a real city dump looking for the heroin as a dozer keeps piling the trash higher. Talk about needles in a haystack, or climbing a mountain that keeps getting higher. One thing for sure, I've seen nothing like it before or since. Anyway, the direction (Kershner) is pretty spotty. There are some nice touches like the crashing bowling ball and bouncing pinball punctuating the two beatings, plus the cascade of heroin down the tank's side. Clearly, however, Kershner is more adept at staging than either coaching actors or building suspense. Even the imaginatively staged showdown doesn't generate the suspense it should. One big positive is the staging throughout. Real locations are used, lending a good glimpse of LA, circa 1958. Too bad the movie as a whole never quite gels, despite the promising premise.
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