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This was based on a true story. About a man (Caan) who discovers that his ex-wife has disappeared along with their children. It seems that her new boyfriend works for some criminals. After being arrested, the government offers to let him enter the newly developed Witness Protection Program in exchange for testifying against his employers. His bosses instruct him to marry his girlfriend so that she can't testify against him, they promise that they will take care of her. When he learns that his cohorts have done nothing to aid his family while in jail, he accepts the government's offer. So, he and his wife and her children enter the program. Now her ex-husband goes to a lawyer because he wants to sue the government for keeping him away from his children.Written by
Actor James Caan made his directorial debut (and, to date, only directorial effort) with this compelling, believable adaptation of a true story. Caan stars as Thomas Hacklin, Jr., a regular-Joe working man (at a tire factory). His ex-wife Ruthie (Barbra Rae) is now involved with Jack Scolese (Robert Viharo), a Mafia goon who squeals on his associates after an arrest. As a result, Jack ends up going into the Witness Relocation Program - and he takes Ruthie and Thomas's two kids with him. An understandably angry and distraught Thomas tries to track down his family, while doing battle with a rather uncaring government.
There's something inherently appealing about seeing this blue collar guy struggle to overcome the immense amount of red tape facing him. Caan is excellent in the lead; he's low key and convincing, and on those few occasions when the character gives in to anger, you can hardly blame him. The film also strongly benefits from its location shooting (it takes place in Buffalo, NY in 1967) and local atmosphere. Caans' storytelling is efficient and to the point. There's no filler here, with "Hide in Plain Sight" clocking in at a refreshingly succinct 92 minute run time. The widescreen photography is first rate.
The cast is stacked with familiar faces. Jill Eikenberry is immensely appealing as Alisa, the new lady in Thomas's life. The under-rated Joe Grifasi is likewise engaging as his good buddy Matty Stanek. And get a load of this assortment of supporting and character actors: Kenneth McMillan, Josef Sommer, Danny Aiello, David Clennon, Peter Maloney, David Margulies, Leonardo Cimino, Tom Signorelli, Charles Hallahan, Alice Drummond, and Beatrice Winde.
While watching this, one may rightly wish Caan had tried directing more often during his career. He clearly had a knack for it.
Eight out of 10.
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