Two gamblers must leave New York City after one loses a lot of money. Doing what all gamblers in trouble would do, they hurry to the gambling capital Las Vegas to turn their luck around. Written by
Melissa Portell <email@example.com>
It is a common practice: it is enough that a false authority (most entertainment reporters) dislikes something, for a choir of followers to repeat his opinion and create undeserved bad reputation for a cultural product. Such is the case of (among many others) "Born to Win", "The Hotel New Hampshire" and "Lookin' to Get Out", all the three curiously made in the 1980s, a difficult times in the history of the United States, under Ronald Reagan's dominant image. Respectively directed by Czech Ivan Passer, British Tony Richardson and American Hal Ashby, the three films had something valuable to say about US individuals, institutions and customs: be it the disintegration of the couple due to drug abuse, the dysfunction of nuclear families, consumerism or a certain vulgarity that may describe Las Vegas too well. None of the three films is a masterpiece, but they rise above the low scores and bad opinions that surround them. In particular, "Lookin' to Get Out (the director's cut) did not diminish at all the great admiration I have for Ashby, one of the most underrated American filmmakers, with a magnificent work that includes "The Landlord", "Harold and Maude", "The Last Detail", "Shampoo", "Bound for Glory", "Coming Home", "Being There" and the documentary "Let's Spend the Night Together", all containing his privileged perception of his fellow Americans and their cultures: who has ever made any two titles of those, has the liberty to make lesser films as "8 Million Ways to Die" or "Lookin' to Get Out", which are not bad at all. Written by Al Schwartz and Jon Voight, "Lookin' to Get Out" is a typical American film comedy drama about gambling buddies, prostituted women, exaggerated bad taste, and a peculiar cultural way of reacting to troubles, stuff that has being the basis of dozens of dramatic comedies, much worse than this, in which Voight and Burt Young try to get out of trouble, when they have to pay 10 thousand dollars in 24 hours, and the only solution they come up with is going to gamble in Las Vegas, where Ann-Margret crosses their path with a different agenda. The plot, which does not aspire for an award to originality, benefits however from the performances of the central cast (Voight, Young, Ann-Margret, Bert Remsen and Richard Bradford), without forgetting the contribution of a group of unknown faces that add weight to the story being told; from maestro Haskell Wexler's cinematography; and mainly in my opinion- from Ashby's hand, from his subtle and affectionate style to capture the fragility of the demented characters, to handle with caution the grotesque and violent, but without suppressing those events and attitudes that offend human dignity, day after day. If you find a copy of Ashby's cut, don't miss it. You will add another title to the gallery of good performances by Voight, Ann-Margret and Young, your appreciation of Ashby will not be affected a bit (unless you have overrated "Harold and Maude") and, as a bonus, you'll see Angelina Jolie (Voight) at six, playing her talented father's little girl. The extended version edition includes a reunion of the actors, who evoke Ashby's memories and his working method.
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