|Index||4 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The neighborhood I grew up in was exactly like the neighborhood depicted here: the police were ineffectual, and I saw the elderly and the poor victimized on a daily (and nightly) basis. Purse-snatchings were commonplace (I once chased a purse snatcher into a nearby housing project, but he lost me). One night, my brother and I saw an old man assaulted by a group of 15 youths. They were armed, and tackled him from behind. I grabbed a lead pipe and ran outside just as several of these punks ran past our house. By the time the police got there, the old man had regained consciousness, gotten up, and walked home. The cops brought him back so he could pick up his groceries, which had been scattered all over the street. Anyone who thinks- even for a moment- that this movie is in any way "over the top" or melodramatic simply has no clue... Martin Balsam gives one of his finest performances ever, and Dorian Harewood as the bottom feeder is brilliant. I'll never forget his response to Balsam's character when asked what he would've been, had things been different: "I would've been GREAT, man." It's a great line, delivered by an underrated performer in an underrated movie.
This film seems to have possibly been inspired by the earlier film,
DEATH WISH. In both, we feature a big city in which decent citizens are
being bullied by drug addicts and predators. While one reviewer felt
this was "paranoid" and "borders on racism", I don't see HOW talking
about real urban problems like this automatically qualifies as either.
Yes, since it's a film it is extreme--that's what you expect from a
movie. But come on, the average American IS worried about life in the
big city and this is somewhat justified. I say "somewhat" because many
of our big cities are actually pretty safe, but up until very recently
this wasn't the case in places like New York. Paranoia isn't truly
paranoia and racism isn't truly racism if there is some truth to it.
This story is about a tenement filled with old people and a gang that beats and extorts the old folks almost constantly--with little help from the police. It's so bad that Martin Balsam's lady friend eventually kills herself to escape. It is then that he decides to act.
All in all, it's an interesting film that is pretty entertaining. Not exactly realistic, but not so far from reality that it is unbelievable.
Siege is a fine example of the often high quality movies that were made for television in the seventies, many of which tackled serious issues avoided in bigger films or else dealt with them in a more intimate way. The story concerns elderly people living in New York terrorized by street gangs, drug dealers and other such unsavory characters, and lacking the funds to move to the suburbs, trapped in a web of fear from which there seems to be no escape. Filmed on location, and featuring an excellent cast headed by sturdy Martin Balsam and wistful Sylvia Sidney, this one plays out like a kind of naturalistic morality play. Though the story is melodramatic, the movie isn't. At times it's heartbreaking. Connie Bromberg's script pulls no punches when it comes to how the real world actually works (cruelly, unfairly) rather than how it ought to work. In the end Balsam's character finally swings into action, which brings if not a catharsis at least a feeling of (probably temporary) relief. The film is very much a product of its time, when inner city neighborhoods were changing, racially and culturally, and often very painfully, as we see some of the last vestiges of a certain kind of Old World, immigrant culture, once so prominent in many American cities, almost literally vanish before our eyes,--but not without a fight.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those 1970s "the world is going to hell" urban paranoia films
that borders on racism. It's late 70s New York, young thugs control the
streets, and inside a crumbling apartment building Henry Fancher (Martin
Balsam) and his elderly Jewish neighbors cannot get the police to protect
them against Simon, a menacing young black man (Dorian Harewood), and his
gang. Despair turns to anger as Fancher decides to protect himself. As a
last resort, he goes to a machine shop and makes a set of metal bracelets
with hooks on them. When Simon breaks into his apartment, Fancher tries to
fight him off to no avail. Finally he uses the bracelets to hook his arms
around Simon, using his nearly-comatose body to slow Simon down until the
Despite its somewhat distasteful tone, this film's gritty realism is appealing and very much in tune with 70s cinema. The suspense builds quite nicely, and the climax is rather unique.
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