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Offbeat--to say the least--comedy-drama from director Tony Bill and writer/co-producer John Patrick Shanley combines unforced, unshowy nostalgia with dark (and rather wobbly) comedic undertones. In a troubled Bronx neighborhood in the 1960s, Jodie Foster is a young woman hounded by just-released convict John Turturro, while Tim Robbins is a former classmate reevaluating his priorities based on turbulent world events. Foster has little to work with in a weakly-written role (she's not going to meet this nutcase in the park at night!), but Robbins' quiet sincerity is lovely, and his handsome face and expressive manner keeps the film grounded in reality. Overall, it's much too flighty, with a melodramatic final 30 minutes which doesn't do anything good for anybody--least of all the viewer. However, there is some dryly eccentric humor in Shanley's screenplay, and when director Bill's touch is light the film generally works. **1/2 from ****
Set in 1964 Bronx, the film starts off great with the Beatles "In My Life"
and just keeps getting better.
A psycho Heinz (John Turturro) is released from prison and goes after the woman Linda (Jodie Foster) who put him there. Harry (Tim Robbins) and James (Todd Graff) try to protect her. Then there's the man that "sells" his girlfriend and her friend to two guys. And there's people being shot with arrows...
This got some noteriety in it's 1988 release because its writer, John Patrick Shanley, had just won the Oscar for "Moonstruck". But this film disappeared without a trace after that. That's a shame because it's a fantastic movie.
The script is sharp and believable with three-dimensional characters and ALL the performances are great. Direction by Tony Bill is perfect...he gets a real feel for the era and captures it on screen. It's also interesting to see Tim Robbins before he hit it big. Engrossing from beginning to end...a must see!
There's so many great lines in this movie! But a particular standout is "Someone murdered our teacher, so we have the day off. Want to go for a ride?"
I came across this film on sale, and purchased it because I saw the
roles- Jodie Foster and Tim Robbins, before they really got famous, and I
was surprised at how well the movie was done. Set in the 60s, Five
rings true with tone and mood of the times. Plot is straightfoward and
mildly believable, but what the film's shining aspect is its portrayal of
human emotions- its very clean, raw look at the fundamental of social
Listen to Jamie's cries at his abducted girlfriend through the steel subway bars. Feel his pain as he scratches for the just-beyond-reach token. Though seemingly one dimensional at first, Heinz is a complex, tortured character with roots (albeit predictably) from youth and upbringing.
The film belies its innocent appearance with a few unexpected flashes of violence, yet maintains a positive feel with occaisional punchlines. Another surprise is Eriq La Salle, who plays a commanding role in the film's racial commentary. (Look for his surgeonesque brusque manner in his pre-Benton, MD role.)
All together with a mysterious archer vigilante (?) in the midst and cute penguins mucking about, this film is worthy of your time if you have some extra.
Verdict for a five dollar DVD? A+ simply on the Beatles tune alone.
This film is a little gem. A very good quirky understated drama. The story is well-developed, reasonably believable, and directed quite nicely. The story is set in a New York neighborhood in the time period of early 60s - both aspects are portrayed well in the film - realistic and believable but not so hammed up as to come across as phony. The acting is superb. Tarturro is great - plays the part of a local psycho bully very well - quite edgy and frightening but not over-the-top. Both Jodie Foster and Tim Robbins also do really well in this movie and is probably the best of that time period (the 80s) for either actor. Would recommend the movie for anyone looking for a good drama or for a movie with some social commentary that does not overwhelm the story.
Life in the Bronx in 1964. A psycho gets out of prison and picks up where
he left off, affecting the lives of people he knew. Has some funny moments
and a couple interesting sub-plots. Excellent cast in this Hand-made indy:
Jody Foster, Tim Robbins, Todd Graff as Jodie's limp-legged boyfriend, and
John Turturro as the psycho.
Some interesting performances from people who went on to bigger and better things. Turturro in particular gives a controlled turn to a role that could easily have been over the top. Many discontinuities mar the script, and there are plot elements which seem to come out of nowhere. But overall it is a movie worth seeing when the cupboard is bare.
I first saw this movie at the Houston International Film Festival in
April or May of 1988. From the moment I saw the names of Jodie Foster,
Tim Robbins and John Turturro, and Oscar- winning screenwriter John
Patrick Shanley in the festival booklet, I was interested and I put
this film on my list of films I would go see.
I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was very pleasantly surprised. I love "period" movies, and this one is warmly set in New York City (specifically, in the Bronx) in 1964. The script may be a bit unusual, but that is part of its charm.
I agree with some other comments that Jodie Foster's role is small, but I think she does a fantastic job in the time she is on screen. Her New York accent is so believable you start thinking she actually is from the Bronx! She is certainly not wasted.
Tim Robbins and John Turturro are also excellent. A few people who have written comments have said that his performance is even more admirable because it could have been over the top, but is not. This is absolutely true. You can see what a fine actor Turturro really is, and how the world would come to see that in his later, more widely-distributed films.
Tim Robbin's portrayal of a young man who renounces violence is also excellent; an early sign of his acting genius.
Besides this film being an early entry in the filmography of Jodie Foster, Tim Robbins and John Turturro, it is also one of the few films made by Rodney Harvey, a talented young actor with a lot of promise (he was the Bellboy at the bed-and-breakfast where Kevin Costner and Sean Young spend the weekend in "No Way Out") who unfortunately died of a drug overdose in 1998. Had he lived, I am sure, he would have gone far.
I also loved the sub-plot involving the glue-sniffing girls and the boys they meet. Plus, the mysterious bow and arrow vigilantes' antics are pretty funny.
Overall, this is a charming, often funny, poignant film, with excellent performances, plenty of good humour, and even social commentary. I also think its portrayal of 1960's New York is right on the button. The use of Beatles songs in the soundtrack is a nice touch. I recommend it to anyone who loves movies and good acting.
I wish John Patrick Shanley would write more for the movies!! He is an excellent writer!!
This films deserves to be seen by more people than those who saw it in its limited theatrical release. I have the Criterion Collection Laserdisc. Now that it is out on DVD, maybe it will get the audience it deserves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think the strength of this movie was Harry's (Tim Robbins) attempt to
come to grips with his father's death through non-violence. It was so
interesting to see how Martin Luther King Jr. inspired him, and his
journey to make meaning of his life in the turbulent 1960's era by
The ending dramatizes the limitations of non-violence, that very small percentage of people who are so clinically insane they will throw their own mother out of a window. Yet, we all know that non-violence was very helpful for the civil rights movement, so I think what this movie is really exploring is not whether non-violence is valuable, but how much complexity it makes for someone who is able to experience their full humanity and feel compassion for others.
It is, in a way, so much easier to be Linda's (Jodie Foster) boyfriend Jamie (Todd Graff), who sees things in black and white - "He isn't a rival - he's a phenomenon, hahaha!!" For Harry it isn't so easy. Harry knows he can kill Heinz (John Tuturro) but he doesn't want to. He can't feel any righteous vengeance when Heinz dies. He just feels sadness for the fragility of human life.
Also, in the reviews here I see a lot of comments about the seemingly unrelated subplot with the two glue-huffing girls. I'm not 100% sure, but it seems to me in the end their presence becomes clear - the two boys they spend the night with are the Indians. We see two of them in the shadows after the last arrow is shot - one taller and maybe blond, one shorter and dark. Especially considering the short brown-haired guy said, "I have the day off because my teacher died", it suggests he was the one who shot the arrow because the teacher failed him. Apparently they were also around the neighborhood that night, and shot the arrow to kill Heinz.
I will agree with other reviewers though - the fact that Linda goes to see Heinz by herself in the middle of the night is pretty stupid. I found this movie on Netflix under the the heading 'comedies featuring a strong female lead," but I don't think it was very much of a comedy, and I certainly wouldn't describe Linda as a strong female.
That said, I'm really glad I saw this movie. Definitely a worthwhile 2 hours spent on a sick day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an intriguing movie. The cast is mainly budding superstars.
Their performances here are in keeping with their march up the ladder
to A-list status. Tim Robbins especially connects with an ex-ruffian
that has found his conscience. He wants in to a trip to Mississippi, to
join MLK's freedom fighters. His explanation to a Malcom X type
recruiter in Harlem, is heartfelt and well delivered. The rest perform
their quirky roles well, thru some very quirky situations. The movie is
But....the writer, who went on to Oscar consideration later in life, has really stretched stuff to fit the plot. The mood change is radical, sub-plots are diverting, but unnecessary. And the worst to me was Jodie being "slugged" and knocked out. She remains knocked out while, carried from the subway, a car theft, a police shootout, a car crash, a 3rd floor Mom/Son confrontation, a climb to a rooftop and a 3 way struggle on the roof. Then she wakes up, reasonably clear headed!?!?! Hmmm! Too much for me. The "inept" police approach was good comedy and again, the cast showed the promise of bigger things to come!! Worth a watch! (in fact, watch the credits roll for a laugh out loud moment!)
Turturro plays a brutal psycho released from prison, and Foster plays
the woman in peril. Neither is really pressed hard here, therefore.
Robbins plays a guy who protected Foster before, but who is volunteering to go south to help the rights of blacks in the south, being inspired by Martin Luther King (this being a period drama). Foster also has a boyfriend who was crippled by Turturro when she was attacked.
Turturro has a weird gift for Foster, and there's a teacher who inexplicably gets shot by an arrow. Meanwhile, there's a pair of guys who are paid to look after two glue-sniffing. And there's a pair of cops and so on...
A strange drama with moments of comedy that don't really fit in comfortably. Seems more like an awkward play awkwardly made into a film.
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