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Based upon the true story of Bruce Johnston Sr., his son, and his brothers; together, they constituted one of suburban Philadelphia's most notorious crime families during the 1970s. Their criminal activities ranged from burglary, theft... and ultimately, murder. Written by
At Close Range(1986) is a powerful story about the conflict between father and son that leads to tragedy. The film is loosely based on a true story. What happens in the course of the film is enough to exhaust the reactions of the viewer. The story is made powerful from the tense moments and strong emotions. The director lends some brilliance in creating a tight and compact crime drama.
Excellent companion to the similarly themed but different storied Out of the Blue(1980). Both deal with the angst of the main characters who are big time misfits. In At Close Range(1986) and Out of the Blue(1980) the father is first beloved then despised by the main characters. The fathers played by Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken are selfish jerks who care only about themselves. The two films share with each other a bleak and dark portrait of the family structure.
The main theme song called "Live to Tell" goes well together with most of the film's motif. The song represents what the whole story is about. The masterpiece of James Foley who has done a couple of other terrific films besides At Close Range(1986). The relationship between Brad JR and his girlfriend adds more to the antagonistic relationship between father and son. Way better than the lousy Fear(1996) or the horrible The Corruptor(1999).
Christopher Walken gives one of his top great performances in the role of Brad Whitewood SR. He does a convincing job at playing an evil character with deceptive charm. Not many actors can be charming and despicable in the portait of a character like Christopher Walken. This is a film where the talents of Chris Walken are put to good use. It also helps that he acts aside another terrific talent in Sean Penn.
Sean Penn brings out the performance of his life in an otherwise inconsistent acting career. Despite being a talented actor, Sean Penn rarely fullfills in some films his capabilities of being a great actor. At Close Range is one of the few times where the talents of the actor are filled to the top of the glass. His character is someone that many can identify with. He puts every ounce of emotion into making Brad Whitewood JR a believable person.
The acting is very good as a total sum. Mary Stuart Masterson gives a solid turn in one of her best roles. Kiefer Sutherland makes a film apprearence before he became a well known actor. The other actors contribute with some believable and solid performances. The acting makes it worthwhile to see the film many times.
The father of At Close Range(1986) is an unforgettable villain in 1980s cinema. Brad Whitewood SR makes Darth Valder look like Santa Claus by comparison. Brad Whitewood SR can be charismatic and evil in the same breath. This character is a cowardly and sleezy person who will do anything to save his own skin. Only the yakuza father from Fudoh:the New Generation(1996) surpasses Brad Sr in cold blooded and ruthless behavior patterns.
The growing conflict between father and son leads to a tense confrontation towards the end. The confrontation with Brad SR and Brad Jr are some of the best acting moments in the careers of Christopher Walken and Sean Penn. This moment is tense to the point where everything else in the scene slows down. Its sad to see Brad JR our out his soul in anger to a father who doesn't care about him. Its the conflict of the two people that the movie center around.
One of the most emotionally draining film experiences I have been apart of as a film viewer. The high engery emotions are brought to live with the three dimensional acting of the main cast. A big emotional moment for me is the confrontation between Brad Jr and Brad Sr. For a film like At Close Range(1986) emotional content is a main part of the story. Not many films today have the heart or feeling of a film like At Close Range(1986).
In the tradition of films such as In Cold Blood(1968) and The Onion Fields(1981). Its too bad that a film like Fear(1996) never reached the emotional altitude of this picture. The writing of the story and characters are deeply realized. The director, James Foley is excellent in displaying realistic problems and situations. At Close Range(1986) is one of those neglected classics from the 1980s that is worth seeing for the performances of the main actors.
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