After many juvenile detentions and six years in prison, the small time thief and burglar Max Dembo is released on parole. Max has an initial friction with his nasty parole officer Earl Frank, but the officer agrees to let him live in a hotel room if he gets a job within a week. Max goes to an employment agency and the attendant Jenny Mercer helps him to get a job in a can industry. Max is decided to begin a new life straight and visits his old friend Willy Darin and his family. When Willy brings Max home, he injects heroin and leaves his spoon under Max's bed. Max dates Jenny and on the next day after hours, he finds Frank waiting for him snooping around his room. Frank finds the spoon and sends Max to prison for tests to prove whether he had a fix or not. Despite the negative result, Frank leaves Max for a week imprisoned. When Max is released again, Frank gives a ride and presses him to tell who had a fix in his room. Max hits Frank, steals his car and seeks out his former friends ...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
According to the DVD sleeve notes, "Before and during the film's shoot, (Dustin) Hoffman apprenticed himself to Edward Bunker, the ex-con whose book 'No Beast So Fierce' inspired the movie". See more »
In the diner, Max orders Jenny a ginger ale; the waitress brings her a 7-Up. See more »
You know what I'd like to do... Why don't you run me by that hotel we'll check it out.
Yeah, well I'll drive you out there but I'm not gonna rob it for you, you have to do that yourself. I got stomach trouble... no guts.
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A great film. Dustin Hoffman is at his peak here, and shows why he's one of the five greatest actors of his generation as he inhabits the character of Max Dembo, a career criminal who's just been released on parole. The movie is brilliant in it's pacing, as we see the layers of Dembo slowly revealed. We want to believe he's a good guy who just made a mistake ("I just want the same things everyone else wants..."), but as the film goes on we see one transgression after another that ultimately reveal to us that he may not be the man we thought he was in the beginning. An excellent portrayal by Hoffman is at the center of the movie, but there is also fine work on display from M. Emmett Walsh (maybe the greatest character actor of all time) as his parole officer, and Theresa Russell (looking like she's about 18) as his naive love interest. Hoffman is brilliant in his interpretation of a prison lifer. Check out the scene where his P.O. throws him back in jail on a petty bust just so he can show Dembo who's in charge. Walsh nails his part as the small man who compensates for his shortcomings by abusing what little authority he has (in other words, a dead on portrayal of almost all law officers), but Hoffman is absolutely perfect as he goes into his thousand yard stare mode while going through the jail house routine of frisking and delousing. The look on his face says "You can't hurt me because I'm numb". Very few flaws in this film. Hell, even the Randy Newmanesque music that plays throughout is perfectly suited. I was enthralled from the opening scene to the last, which is, fittingly, a series of mugshots of Hoffman's Dembo over the years. Highly recommend.
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