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Louis Gossett Jr.,
A teenage delinquent who goes on a drunken joyride is left in jail overnight by his parents in the hope that he might learn a lesson from it. But events follow which result in the boy spending far longer behind bars than anyone had foreseen. Written by
This tale of a juvenile's nightmare voyage through delinquency and the harsh penal system is a well acted and at times moving story.
Emilio Estevez as the angry young man Danny is excellent, in an early role which showed his promise and acting ability. He is indeed his father's son. His story is set against a backdrop of hopelessness and unemployment and his father's emasculation as the wage earner and hunter gatherer. Martin Sheen's character, Frank, is seeking employment having been laid off as foreman in the factory he's spent his adult career in. His frustration at having to almost beg for work, and fear of welfare, whilst his wife earns a wage and keeps the house is palpable and contributes to the rocky relationship with his volatile son. In these early scenes we see Danny cares for his family greatly, that he respects his father but feels embarassed for him.
When Danny drunkenly wrecks a car his Frank lets him stew in the cells for a night to teach him a lesson. After he beats a dirty old lech in self defense he is remanded in the youth cells and is tragically sucked into the system, a system which fails him. His character's brutalisation and growing desperation are well conveyed by Emilio and are thrown into contrast later on when we see his father's and the family's fortunes improving with Frank getting a good new job out of state.
When Danny is finally released we see a different young man. The closing scenes are poignant as Danny silently, hauntingly, watches his father (offscreen) laugh and play with his younger children. We suspect young Danny longs for those innocent days of youth and unquestioning love. Carefree days. Simple days. Happy days.
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