Critic Reviews



Based on 9 critic reviews provided by
Because this film is violent and cruel and very sad, why would you want to see it? For a couple of reasons, perhaps. One might be to watch two great actors, Penn and Walken, at the top of their forms in roles that give them a lot to work with. Another might be to witness some of the dynamics of a criminal society, some of the forces that push criminals further than they intend to go.
Audiences will respond to the very strong performances of the two leads, especially Walken in one of his best roles.
At times veering toward the portentous, the film nonetheless has the relentless rhythm of a juggernaut. The acting is first-rate American realism -- gutsy, funny and scary as the occasion demands. [09 June 1986, p.79]
Relentlessly grim, At Close Range offers a frightening glimpse at the dark side of American life and poses disturbing questions about family ties. Unfortunately, although director James Foley handles the performances with skill, he also indulges in too many flashy directorial pyrotechnics, muting the emotional impact.
At Close Range is impeccably photographed, and its other technical credits are fine, too. But this excellence serves a dubious, confused cause, and on that basis the film cannot be recommended.
At Close Range is never boring. There's something bold about the film's wealth of imagery, but it also so overstates the material of the screenplay that it eventually annihilates both it and the story, which might possibly have been moving and terrifying. This just looks like fancy movie making.
Engaging performances by Penn and Walken can’t quite turn this brutal curio into something more substantial.
If ever a movie needed a modest, straight-ahead style to its telling, it's this one. And while James Foley's direction (and strong, iconoclastic casting) has resulted in a handful of indelible performances, he can't get out of his own way when it comes to how he tells his story.
Foley has opted for a mixture of documentary realism and set pieces which have clearly escaped from over-lit pop promos. Mingle this with Penn and Walken going heavily over the top in usual Method fashion, and the brew is less than intoxicating.

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