Hide in Plain Sight (1980) Poster

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A refreshing & genuine drama
ajosephi19 October 2000
Now, I'm a big fan of car chases and big action, and I do love style for style's sake. But it's getting so it's hard to find anything but these things, even in a 'small' dramatic movie. This movie is quite genuine, it's got that 70's slower pace - a very natural build-up of the drama. James Caan's direction is clean and clever, and he plays that working class good man so well. The story is well handled, especially considering that it's based on true events, and without the overbearing score or dramatic character or situational embellishments that this film would have if it was made today. So refreshing.
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A great film that most have never heard of
scribe19641 January 2007
This film DID get a theatrical release, but it quickly disappeared. It's unfortunate, because it's very thoughtful film. As a director, Caan made some interesting choices.

As a side note, I saw Caan discussing it in an interview a long time ago. He said the studio had no faith in the film, so they dumped it without much advertisement. And then they were shocked when it received great reviews. But by then, it was already dead. He also mentioned that the pan & scan version that was on TV changed a lot of wide-screen two shots into separate shots! I'm not sure if the same thing happened with the VHS, but I'll bet it did. Hopefully, a proper version will come out on DVD one of these days.
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One of Caan's top 10 films
gareth-g24 March 2007
One of the great unsung directing debut's from a versatile character actor with stat status. I remember the mid to late 70's cinema scene with fondness and the prospect of James Caan directing as well as starring in a character-driven piece was like manna from heaven to me. Living in the UK I never got to see this release in the cinema (despite excellent coverage in UK's Films and Filming magazine), but I caught up on it during the 80's video revolution (in an un-hired ex-rental video). Unfortunately the video was panned and scanned to 4:3 thus diminishing the composition and I had to wait until the late 90's to catch this excellent drama on TCM where it was regularly screened in it's correct aspect ratio. Since purchasing a DVD recorder last year this title has not popped up on UKTV so I wait with baited breath for the return of "Hide In Plain Sight" to the TV screens.....hey! maybe someone will lobby for a DVD release because you've got to admit it's far superior the 95% of the dross that gets released every week of the year!
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well handled, some suspense, lots of local color
connerss21 July 2005
I thought the naturalism of the settings worked well for Caan. It's got that gritty 70's look. It's also interesting to see a film shot in Buffalo, NY during that period. The extras are good and some of the hairstyles and fashions are hysterical. I thought Caan did a good job considering this was the first and last movie he shot. Jill Eikenberry's acting is very natural. The climax is not exploitative and thus is believable. Not played very much on cable although the topic is timely, I forget which station I caught it on fairly recently. The character is played well by Caan and I identified with the working class element. I was also wondering why Hollywood never gave James Caan another directing job, was it because this fared poorly at the box office?
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Caan pulls double-duty and does a fine job.
Poseidon-315 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Based on a true story, working class father Caan is stunned to find that his two children from a previous marriage have been swallowed up by the witness protection program, leaving him with no avenue to see them or contact them. Caan, a veteran and an employee at a Buffalo, NY rubber factory, enjoys spending time with his young son and daughter until their mother (Rae) becomes involved with a hood who has ties to the mob. When the hood (Viharo) informs on a dozen of his former mob cronies, he is assigned a new name, new job and new geographic location, taking Rae and the children with him. Caan, who has just begun a new relationship with rather prim and sensitive schoolteacher Eikenberry, exhausts every method he can think of to locate and become reunited with his children, encountering governmental opposition and red tape at every turn. Caan, who also directed this film, gives a very low-key, but effective performance. He is never tempted to overplay his heartache, anger or frustration and refrains from overindulgence, though occasionally he threatens to (or does!) lose his cool. He presents an amiable, though lower-class, character but doesn't play up things like a thick accent or excessively brutish qualities. Eikenberry is a serene, endearing presence who understandably wears down during Caan's endless quest, but shows quiet strength and support when it's needed. Many familiar TV and movie faces people the supporting cast. Grifasi, as Cann's co-worker and friend, gets a rare chance to play a regular guy in contrast top the many quirky or comedic roles he's enacted. Aiello is good as a lawyer who agrees to take on Caan's case. Clennon, who would later make a splash on "Thirtysomething" appears as a snotty attorney who draws Caan's ire. The film benefits greatly from authentic location work and an overriding sense of realism. The acting is decent throughout. Where it falters some is in its period detail. The story is set in 1967 but, aside from some bouffant hair and period cars, there is precious little to suggest that this isn't the mid to late 70's. The primary difference is in the make-up. Women (especially like Rae's somewhat tawdry character) wore far heavier eye make-up, including false eyelashes. Eikenberry, in particular, rarely looks like someone from 1967. Another quibble is the apparent time-line. The true story played out over 8 years, which is a far more agonizing ordeal to live through than the approximately one year span shown here. Still, it's a thoughtful, realistic drama concerning a subject that hasn't gotten a lot of coverage in the cinema. To date, Caan has not again stepped behind the camera to direct.
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A likable, impassioned tale.
Scott LeBrun25 August 2015
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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a workingman's movie
Strelnikoff20 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
'Hide in Plain Sight' is a solid, functional, lean, and smoothly done film. It is 'no frills' in style, but that does not mean that it has a "tv movie of the week" vibe.

The film does it's best to bring out the emotional pitch of the complex situation. In this, it largely succeeds. HIPS is not a glossy, gorgeous film, with memorable cinematography--it is strongly blue-collar and gritty in its general feel. But it is focused and stays on-target for what it is trying to do. That's more than you can say for a lot of movies.

I hadn't realized until now, that this flick was directed by Caan. This work does credit to his already great resume. He keeps a firm hand on the production and doesn't make any sophomoric mistakes. It is not a 'great' film but it is a good film --realistic--and doesn't disappoint.

By the way, it's hard to overlook the relevancy of a plot like this, with current events the way they are, in the U.S. today. This film is particularly poignant and resonant for those of us concerned about American civil liberties.

There is a great scene near the end where Caan makes his final stand against the government agencies he has fought throughout the film.
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Witness protection
jotix1007 May 2005
Never saw this film directed by James Caan, who also appears in the title role. This movie must have gone directly to video because we don't recollect if it ever was released commercially. The picture has a "movie of the week" feeling to it, which could well be the reason for not having received a wider release.

The film makes an interesting point. Thomas Hacklin, a factory worker, has divorced his wife, but they have remained in friendly terms. We watch as Tom comes, at the start of the movie, to baby sit his son and daughter. Clearly, Tom adores these children.

His divorced wife has remarried the small time hoodlum Jack Solese. When this man runs into problems with the law, he is offered a release and witness protection in exchange for his cooperation in getting the principal mobsters in jail. When he complies and points the finger to the responsible guys, Jack and his family are relocated to Michigan. Tom, on the other hand, is not notified about the where abouts. Thus begins his quest for his own children.

James Caan, makes a good impression as the working class father. Jill Eikenberry plays Alisa, the woman who has settled in the area and loves Tom. The supporting cast is good. Robert Viharo, Joe Grifasi, Barbra Rae, Kenneth McMillan, Josef Sommer and Danny Aiello work well under Mr. Caan's direction.

This is a curiosity because it's the only film directed by Mr. Caan.
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A Solid, Believable, Down-To-Earth Drama about an Actual Event
zardoz-1320 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely do you see a movie with a hero who is an ordinary everyday working stiff. A man who served his hitch in the armed forces and then returned to civilian life to settle down as an eight hour a day blue collar factory worker. Men of this caliber don't stand out in crowds. They aren't very interesting either to movie audiences that demand larger-than-life heroes caught in life and death predicaments and perform incredible feats of derring-do. In "Hide In Plain Sight," James Caan of "The Godfather" plays a real-life person in a film based on a true incident that occurred in Buffalo, New York, in the late 1960s and became the subject of a book by Lesley Waller.

As Tom Hacklin, Caan is your average, middle-class, blue-collar factory worker. No, he isn't an Archie Bunker type. If Hacklin has any opinions, he keeps them to himself, and Caan doesn't portray him as a dummy either. Although Hacklin is divorced (a point that Spencer Eastman's script avoids), he is shown as an individual that treats his children, a boy and a girl, with unbridled love and affection. The action begins one day in 1967 when Hacklin learns that his ex-wife Ruthie (TV actress Barbra Rae) and his pre-school kids have vanished without a trace. Hacklin's wife had been involved with a small-fry Mafioso Jack Scolese (Robert Viharo of "Villa Rides"). Scolese staged a bank robbery and pistol whipped a bank cashier. On orders from the mob, Scolese not only marries Ruthie, but he also turns himself into the authorities.

Meanwhile, a U.S. government strike force in Buffalo out to clean up crime convinces Scolese that his mob set him up. Federal authorities persuade him to inform on his former gang bosses; it seems that the government has a Witness Relocation Program. The program calls for a complete change of identity for the informer and his family as well as a new town to settle in with a worthwhile job. Scolese decides to inform. Hacklin sets out to find his kids. He is frustrated at every turn by uncooperative cops and lilied-livered politicos. The police have to stop him from finding Scolese as much as the mob wants him to find a rat that needs killing. Either way Hacklin could care less, he just wants his kids back.

"Hide In Plain Sight" is a brooding, low-key movie that shuns the extroverted emotionalism of "Kramer Vs. Kramer," another film about a father that wants his child back. Spencer Eastman's screenplay is a fine, literate effort that details the obstacles that Hacklin must overcome to find his children. Occasionally, the script has lapses; Hacklin is shown in a highly favorable light, but why was he divorced? You get the feeling that his wife was to blame, but how did she get custody of the kids? Most of all, however, the script is credible, especially in dealing with Hacklin's frustrations. After the court hearing, which Hacklin loses to the government, he smashes the government attorney's slick, sporty Corvette. The revenge her is so pathetic that it is real and believable.

James Caan makes his directional debut with "Hide In Plain Sight." Although he isn't as innovative as Clint Eastwood, he is at best competent and unpretentious. Caan doesn't let anything or anybody, least of all himself, get in the way of the story that he has to tell. The performances by the cast are nicely etched characterizations of real people. There are no bloodbaths or careening auto chases here. "Hide In Plain Sight" is a responsible, evenly paced film. Director James Caan has taken great pains to recreate the setting and the story. He has also done an admirable job in skillfully underplaying the role of Thomas Hacklin. Presumably, Caan both admired and sympathized with Hacklin and the guy's plight for he has made one of the more notable films of the 1980 cinema season. If you aren't accustomed to movie-going because you deplore the excesses of sex and violence on the big-screen, "Hide In Plain Sight" may be just what you're searching for in good entertainment.
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A Thought-Provoking Gem
dougdoepke15 July 2017
Compelling all the way through and based on a true story. Tom (Caan) wants his kids back after the Feds have taken them as part of a witness relocation program. Seems his ex-wife Ruthie (Rae) has hooked up with a minor gangster Jack (Viharo) who's testified against gang bosses. As part of his deal with the Feds, Jack's married Ruthie and they and her two kids by Tom are secretly spirited away to a new life. Trouble is no one, least of all the Feds, bothered telling Tom whose paternal interests have been totally ignored. A working stiff, Tom tries respectfully to work through the government bureaucracy to establish some kind of paternal rights for access to his kids. Nonetheless, his access could lead the gang to stoolie Jack's whereabouts, resulting in a central conflict of interests.

Clearly, there's a subtext to the storyline. Set in 1967, the narrative generally shows how uncaring Feds are about an average working guy's rights. Much of the proceedings are taken up with Tom being brushed off by ascending levels of government even up to his congressman. For Tom, it's ironic that the establishment he supports as an anti-hippie blue-collar conservative would treat him so cavalierly. In a sense, the movie suggests reasons for working class guys to despise government as much as do the anti-war hippies of the time. In effect, the governing agencies come across as basically uncaring about the broader consequences of their acts, seemingly either in Vietnam or Buffalo, NY. That's why Tom angrily identifies himself to a Fed as "Nobody" at movie's end. He's had an odd learning experience, but a learning experience it is. Perhaps I exaggerate some, but the subtextual core is definitely present in this adaptation of a real life event.

Anyway, Caan delivers an ace performance as Tom. Note how his lines are delivered in rather groping and not very articulate fashion, befitting a guy more skilled with his hands than his tongue. Thus, Caan manages a convincing role without special pleading. The rest of the rather large cast also performs ably, especially rotund McMillan as a street-wise cop and Viharo as the callous stoolie. But, as much as I wanted to hug her, I'm afraid Eikenberry is a shade too sweet and understanding as Tom's new girl friend.

On the whole, the movie comes across as very skillfully done, with a thought provoking storyline, and results that are generally underrated. So don't pass it up.
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Vastly underrated
asc8518 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This film came and left the movie theaters, so I think I had seen it on HBO when it finally got there. But the fact that so few have written a review about this movie further underlines how few people have probably seen it. Which is a shame, because it's a very well-done, sensitive film, and a Best 10 film for 1980, at the very least. James Caan's performance is definitely against type, and he does a great job as the down-on-his-luck, blue-collar father who seemingly can't catch a break. Anyone who's expecting the macho character that he played in The Godfather or Rollerball will be very much surprised by this role. And the ending is so sweet and sensitive, if you're not choked up by it, then maybe you have ice water in your veins.

My only criticism is the casting of Danny Aiello as the great lawyer who's going to help him out and waive his fee. As the owner of Sal's Pizzeria in "Do the Right Thing," he's believable. As a wealthy, high-end lawyer, he's not.
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Hide in Plain Sight-Justice Goes Awry ***1/2
edwagreen2 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent film with James Caan starring as a typical divorced man with 2 children. His wife gets involved with a gangster and when her new husband is wanted for a bank robbery, the mob strongly suggests that he marry her so that she can't testify against him. When he is caught, he turns the tables on the mob and is placed in the Witness Protection Program. Problem is that he leaves with his new wife and children, and the Caan character has every door slammed in his face when he tries to find out from the government what has happened to his children.

This film shows you the inhumanity of the government in consideration of Caan's request. They will either ignore him or thwart any attempt of his to make contact with his children.

Caan plays the desperate father quite well.
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Well acted, but too slow of paced
a_chinn2 July 2017
I'm not sure I ever knew that James Caan directed a film, but he did and it's "Hide in Plain Sight." The story is about a father, Caan, who's ex-wife, Jill Eikenberry, goes into the witness protection program and takes her children with her. Caan then spends the rest of the film trying to find his children. That set-up has potential, but the film is so slow moving that it never really grabbed me, although I will give Caan and Eikenberry credit for giving sincere performances. Kenneth McMillan and Danny Aiello also appear.
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Directorial debut should have been hidden
drjgardner28 June 2017
Hide in Plain Sight was James Caan's first effort as a director and thank goodness he stopped after this one. There is a nice story here, and with someone more skilled it could have been exciting and insightful. In Caan's clumsy hands it is simply a story told, but you'll find it hard to stay interested because of the stark cuts and lack of continuity. Indeed, for a first time director, there is really nothing going on in an inventive manner.

Caan does double duty as the film's star, and he is perfectly adequate to the task, in a role he's play many times before and since. The rest of the cast is so one dimensional that it's really hard to care about the characters. That again has to be attributed to Caan, as many of these actors are top notch (Danny Aiello, Joe Grifasi, Ken McMillan, Josef Sommer).

It's too bad. This is a good story that deserved to be told in a more compelling manner.
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