7.4/10
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70 user 49 critic

Straight Time (1978)

After being released on parole, a career burglar assaults his former probation officer, returns to a life of crime, and goes on the run.

Directors:

Ulu Grosbard, Dustin Hoffman (uncredited)

Writers:

Edward Bunker (novel), Alvin Sargent (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dustin Hoffman ... Max Dembo
Theresa Russell ... Jenny Mercer
Gary Busey ... Willy Darin
Harry Dean Stanton ... Jerry Schue
M. Emmet Walsh ... Earl Frank
Rita Taggart ... Carol Schue
Kathy Bates ... Selma Darin
Sandy Baron ... Manny
Jake Busey ... Henry Darin (as Jacob Busey)
Tina Menard ... Hotel Manager
Stephanie Ericsson Stephanie Ericsson ... Bar Patron (as Stephanie Ericsson Baron)
Dave Kelly Dave Kelly ... Counterman
Don Sommese Don Sommese ... Waiter
Kit Jee Wong Kit Jee Wong ... Grocer
Peter Kwong ... Grocery Clerk
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

can he go straight or will he go straight back inside? See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish | Cantonese

Release Date:

21 April 1978 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

No Beast So Fierce See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$9,900,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,900,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

First Artists, Sweetwall See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dustin Hoffman visited the author of the source novel, Edward Bunker, in prison to express interest in making the novel into a film. Hoffman's enthusiasm, as well as excellent reviews, helped prompt the authorities into releasing Bunker early. See more »

Goofs

In the final diner scene, Jenny is smoking a cigarette and hands the cigarette to Max. In the next shot, the cigarette is back in Jenny's hand. See more »

Quotes

Jerry Schue: [Max, Jerry and Carol are enjoying a backyard barbecue. Carol leaves to grab some drinks] Get me outta here. They're killing me. I can't make this scene anymore, get me outta here... You got something, I know you got something...
Max Dembo: Yeah, I got something.
Jerry Schue: Well, let's do it.
Max Dembo: Don't you wanna know what it is?
Jerry Schue: I don't give a damn what it is, let's just do it... What is it?
Max Dembo: Bunch of old guys play poker over in a motel out in the valley. They got about twenty thousand dollars on the table. We just tip ...
[...]
See more »


Soundtracks

Two of Us
Music by David Shire
Lyrics by Norma Green (as Norma Helms)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dustin Destined for Crime
21 October 2018 | by frankwienerSee all my reviews

Or...how to humiliate your detestable creep of a parole officer like no one else in only a matter of seconds.

Beginning with "The Graduate", I have seen many Dustin Hoffman movies in which he excels as an actor playing a very wide range of roles, but there is something about this part as lifetime criminal Max Dembo that stands out in my mind. Contrary to what some reviewers write, this is a grossly underrated film, and I am very surprised that it was never even nominated for an Oscar in any category. When I examine the names of productions that actually won in that year, I am even more disappointed.

What truly strikes me is how passionate Mr. Hoffman was in making this movie. At some point, he realized that he could not fully develop as Dembo if he directed himself at the same time. That was a good decision, and choosing his friend Ulu Grosbard was an even better one. I have only seen Grosbard's "The Subject Was Roses", a stage play that was very successfully brought to the screen with the assistance of a stellar three person cast. The direction here was brilliant as well, especially the handling of the dramatic heist scenes, the escape sequences, the captivating ending, and much that transpired in between. As a viewer, I was engrossed by the action from start to finish. Hoffman also wisely chose David Shire to compose the mood setting, melancholic musical score.

The entire supporting cast, without exception, was first-rate as well. How M. Emmett Walsh missed at least an Oscar nomination for his extraordinary portrayal of Earl Frank, the sleazy scoundrel of a parole officer, is totally beyond my comprehension.

I've read many overly simplistic interpretations of Max Dembo's character on this page. Unlike other reviewers, I believe that Dembo does at first demonstrate a good attitude to his parole officer, often pushing the limits of his ability, but he may be incapable of handling his prison release, with or without an extremely abusive, sadistic parole officer. At times I wondered whether "Dembo" was a play on "Dumbo", the baby elephant who was treated so cruelly by the world from the very start. Even if Max weren't assigned to a creep like Frank, how long would it have been before he became restless on the assembly line of a can factory and in urgent need of a daring, dramatic caper or two? Aside from the seriously flawed criminal system, Max Dembo seems to be destined for a life of crime.

The typing test, early in the film, is a critical sign to the viewers of at least one very damaging flaw in Max's personality--the inability to abide by social parameters of any kind. This leads to disastrous consequences along the road. By the way, Jenny, the employment counselor who becomes his lover, is obviously dissatisfied with her unfulfilled life at the personnel agency, and, yes, even good looking people get lonely and bored. Why would so many reviewers believe that looks alone automatically guarantee satisfaction with life? The list of tragic celebrity examples alone is very long and sad. Jenny is more than ready for action and even appears lost when the excitement abruptly comes to a close.

This is a gritty and often depressing view of a man who seems to be destined to lead a life of crime, regardless of the specific circumstances. The compelling story, the fine script, the wonderful acting, the skillful direction, and the stirring musical composition combine to create a fascinating film.


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