A fictional account of the real life, eleven day, never explained 1926 disappearance of famed murder mystery writer Agatha Christie is presented. On a cold winter day, her damaged car with ... See full summary »
Los Angeles private investigator Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter. Moseby tracks the daughter down, only to stumble upon something much more intriguing and sinister.
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
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 »
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 »
[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...
Yeah, I got something.
Well, let's do it.
Don't you wanna know what it is?
I don't give a damn what it is, let's just do it... What is it?
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 »
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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