Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) Poster

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Inspired, epic vision of a dark world is an unacknowledged classic
Mattydee7429 May 2001
I remember my intense eagerness to see this film. I wasn't entirely sure why at the time but when I finally saw it in 1990 I was devastated and soon addicted to this sad tale of city life spiralling out of control. Its a film with an epic quality and a grand, sweeping style that turns the city scape into a character in itself. This was Uli Edel's (as he was then known) classic and it remains a remarkably strong film. Its not pretty and doesn't hold back in revealing the light and dark of its characters. Brutal it may be, but there is something vital and alive seething in this movie with anger and pain. Its source is Hubert Selby Jr's novel. I believe its a superior adaptation.

The film is based around a union strike which threatens to cripple the city of Brooklyn in the 1950s. The film focuses several characters; Harry, the troubled union leader struggling to come to terms with his desires for other men and his gender-bending lover against the anger, aggression and hypocrisy of the era; a woman, TraLaLa, who sells her body for money but finds herself committing the ultimate crime of her profession by falling for a client - an army man destined to hurt her; a family with a daughter pregnant out of wedlock; a gang of aimless young men hungry for trouble; and a young teen looking for love in TraLaLa.

Its a film full of fascinating performances which reinforce the greatness of this film. Jennifer Jason Leigh burst into the spotlight with her startling performance as TraLaLa. She embodies the role with unceasing honesty and vigour. It is her late scenes in the film which rip at the heart, especially when she finds compassion in an unlikely source at the worst of moments. Her portrayal doesn't seek sympathy - on the contrary Jennifer Jason Leigh gets deep inside the cruel and manipulative character to reveal the hope beneath without a false note. Peter Dobson, Stephen Baldwin are a brilliant combination as the thugs and Alexis Arquette is remarkable as their taunted worshipper, Georgette. Ricki Lake, Sam Rockwell and Stephen lang also excel in a great ensemble film.

I can still picture vividly the majesty and intensity of the strike riot and the water spraying at the wire fence as strikers confront the police.

There are many great scenes such as this which combined with striking performances and an unflinching script and score make Last Exit to Brooklyn a modern masterpiece. This is a highly underrated film, mainly because of the view that the subject matter is too seamy, grotesque and extreme. And there is no doubt this is a confronting, violent and provocative film experience. Unfortunately, because of this widely heralded view, many people are missing out on an unacknowledged classic. Don't miss out.
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A brave attempt at difficult material
richburroughs21 July 2001
After being blown away by the film version of Requiem for a Dream, I recently began reading some of Selby's books. I started with The Room and moved on to Last Exit to Brooklyn. Tonight I watched the film.

I think it's very unfortunate that people have criticized it here for exactly the qualities that make it unique compared to most American films. Yes, it's dark, and yes, there are not always clear resolutions to every character's part of the story. Those are qualities present in Selby's book and it would have been a shame for the filmmakers to abandon them, just as it would have been a shame for Aronofsky to cave to the pressures to find a happier ending for his film of Requiem...

As a reader of the book I think those negative comments are even more misguided, because the screenwriter did quite a bit to try to make the material more accessible for the viewing audience. He intertwined what are essentially separate stories (the book is more like a collection of short stories around related themes than a traditional novel), and found what was probably the happiest ending possible given the material. The book doesn't end on the relief of the end of the strike, but finishes with an amazing coda that contains characters like Abraham, a man who spends money on clothes and his car but won't cough up to buy vitamins for his malnourished children.

My one big complaint about the screenplay was the treatment of Harry Black's character. In the book he is a largely ineffectual blowhard who is laughed at by almost everyone around him, but in the film he is almost heroic at times, leaping into the middle of the confrontation at the picket line. I think his descent is more credible in the book, but Selby was also able to get inside Harry's head on paper in a way that's difficult to translate into film.

Overall I think this film is a very excellent adaptation of extremely difficult material, and I recommend it to anyone who is willing to watch a story about the pain and suffering that happens in everyday life without the Hollywood gloss.
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The Opposite of Pleasantville
bill-98725 October 2005
Did you ever notice that if you were to show a film to after dinner friends, all too often what you bring out is a work that might not make a list of your personal top ten favorite movies? This is one of those films. Very postwar early 50's, but a 1950's Donna Reed would have been lost in. It truly is the opposite of Pleasantville.

Hubert Selby's dark vision of the common man is woven around several characters in a Brooklyn neighborhood. A factory worker called Big Joe is played by Burt Young. Instinctively brutal yet pathetically naive, he wanders through his Brooklyn neighborhood functioning at the most elemental level reinforced only by an inherited value system to which he is single-mindedly loyal. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a whore whose timeline for thoughts of her future stretches out only several hours. She gets by in life rolling drunks whose tolerance for liquor is less than hers, or giving sex to those who outlast her. A soldier soon to be shipped out takes her to Manhattan for his last few stateside days and falls in love with her. Tralala (Leigh's character) recognizes the attendant lust but has no clue about the implications of his love. As she sees him off, the Lieutenant hands her an envelope. Tra's face lights up as her vision of the order in life (she gives him sex, he has a good time, he gives her money) seems to have been reaffirmed. When the envelope turns out to contain a lengthy love letter she doesn't become angry or disappointed, just confused.

In addition to Leigh and Young, powerful performances are turned in by Jerry Orbach (the corrupt union boss), Stephen Lang (the closet homosexual strike-line foreman), Stephen Baldwin (a street punk), Ricki Lake (Big Joe's very pregnant daughter), and Alexis Arquette (the teen-age transvestite).

The soundtrack is excellent and unobtrusive and Uli Edel's direction insightful. You need a strong stomach to watch it and quite a bit of dedication to find it, but it's well worth the effort.
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Violent slice-of-life that lingers in the memory
Pedro_H17 April 2003
Working class life in 1950's Brooklyn is disrupted by a strike.

One of these films that seems about nothing in the explaining (the ups and downs of the roughhouse working-class), but is a very powerful piece in the watching and highly recommended.

The film reminded me of an X rated version of American Graffiti where people go about their ordinary lives, but somehow, we become fascinated. While actually shot in West German (when there was one) there are too many real NY character actors for us to notice.

There is fair amount of stupidity and leaching. The male hustler and the whore stick in your mind longer, but the working class morals of all the characters are well observed. Certain scenes actually play no real role in the plot, but add to the feel of time and place.

A lot of people will be shocked by this movie. It is brutally frank and at times violent, but it is never just put there for entertainment. This is an adult picture dealing with adult themes and adult lives. I found it quite hard to watch at times myself, but I think it is an important film and no insult to the classic Selby book which inspired it.
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A Dark and Impressive View of the Other Side of North America in the 50's
claudio_carvalho27 July 2004
In 1952, a panoramic view of the other side of North America is presented through the life of different characters and their dramatic stories, having Brooklyn in common. Tralala (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a prostitute, connected with a violent street gang composed of small time crooks. They swindle most of Tralala clients, stealing their money. She meets a young lieutenant from Idaho, who falls in love with her. The labor union is on strike against the employers, placing picket against the trucks and protesting in front of the factory. American soldiers are again fighting in another war, this time against Korea. Maybe the only missing point in this film is the declared racism of those times. This sad, depressive and violent movie is another great work of Uli Edel, mainly known by `Christiane F'. The cast has amazingly performances, and the scene when Tralala is raped by dozens of men in an abandoned car is one of the most strong I have ever seen in a movie. I agree with the words of IMDB User Comments: `Great film, but not a piece of entertainment'. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): `Noites Violentas no Brooklin' (`Violent Nights in the Brooklyn')
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newnoir29 March 2000
Last Exit to Brooklyn is a great flick. It's brutal, dark, funny as heck at times, and in the end uplifting. Watching this movie it was hard to imagine this was based on a book from the 50's. A book which explores homosexuality, prostitution, sexual confusion would seem to be almost unheard of subjects in the uptight, Leave It To Beaver 1950's. People who put down this film don't know what they're talking about. The author of the book this movie was based on said himself he thought this was one great adaptation of his novel. And he was sure right. Folks who can handle the dark, brutal films of David Lynch, the Coen Brothers and Tarantino, Scorsese, Kubrick, Hartley and Fosse will dig this movie. But if "You've Got Mail" is your idea fo a great rental, you won't like it a bit. It's just as well, a lot of great, cool films aren't for everyone.
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Powerful drama
Bogey Man14 December 2002
Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) is based on the book by Hubert Selby Jr. about a group of working class during a labour strike in early 1950's in the gritty streets of Brooklyn. German Uli Edel directed this and Desmond Nakano wrote the screenplay. Stephen Lang plays Harry Black, the leader of the strike unit and Jennifer Jason Leigh is Tralala, a lost soul who works as a hooker for the various soldiers and other drunken males that use the services of the hookers drinking beer and acting dirty. The film explores the forms of love and how desperate we are for it, because living without it is not too easy or even possible as it belongs to being a human being.

The film opens with a line from the Bible which thickens the theme of the film and the above thing I wrote. Soon we get introduced to the main characters who don't seem to be too happy. Harry doesn't care about his wife and child but seems to be very attracted by a sensual and very attractive transvestite who lives with other transvestites in their own apartment while the "straight" prostitutes are mainly in the streets. This relationship between Harry and the transvestite(s) is very great and emotional and depicts the nature of love and caring as it doesn't always involve just different sexes together. Just watching Harry's eyes when he first sees his new interest in the street shows how powerful cinema can be without one single word.

Another important character is of course Tralala and she is also involved in the film's harrowing and almost unbearably sadistic and ugly end scene that finally (or what happens after that) makes the film a very strong experience. She is completely lost even though she meets a nice sailor who truly falls in love with her even though Tralala doesn't understand it at once. She understands it during the end scene as well as the meaning of the crying boy she first gets to meet during the act. Last Exit to Brooklyn explores love and caring between human beings and how strong it can be. Tralala wouldn't survive without the motorcycle boy, or she would live the rest of her life in pure emptiness and void.

The film handles also violence and weak human nature desperate for sex and other of his instincts. The violence is very harsh and off putting and the film's view of life is dark to say the least. Violence is here as unjustified and brutal as in real life, too, and maybe that's why so many seem to dislike the film and its honesty saying it is "unpleasant and repellent".

The sets are very impressive and the atmosphere in this film is all the time like the actors could any minute start singing and dancing their lines! This creates also a very strong feel of danger and "clock ticking" as the workers and strikers wait for the decision by the authorities and it is like it is night all the time. The film feels like a depiction of the world's last day that still may not be the last but no one knows it yet for sure.

Equally great with the photography and sets is the music by Mark Knopfler. The beautiful theme is played during the film restrainedly and it makes the strong events and situations even stronger, as always a great soundtrack does. The very conclusion is pretty optimistic and again the music makes it look even brighter and hopeful. Some characters didn't manage to learn before it was too late, but at least those who did have a chance for a better tomorrow.

The major negative sides in the film are in the occasional restlessness as the writer tried to give us more information than it was necessary. I mean mostly the scenes involving Burt Young character's family tragedy with all its screaming and shouting and crying. These scenes are not too powerful but more irritating as they could have been different. The characters' motivations are not always clear and sometimes they seem to develop too fast. What they tried to express through screaming and horrible noise should have been done more aesthetically and with the tools of the art and much more effectively.

Last Exit to Brooklyn is a powerful, challenging and at the end, beautiful film about the most important and universal things in life and about humanity, and it is also a great film visually. This is very powerful drama and only few steps from being a nearly perfect masterpiece. 8/10
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The Honeymooners It Isn't
sol121829 February 2004
Harry, Stephen Lange the union shop steward who's in good with the president of the dock workers union, Boyce, Jerry Orbach,In that he has a union expense account which he uses to finance his secret life. Married to his wife Mary, Maria Danziger, Harry goes out to expensive bars and nightclubs with high-class transvestites that he picks up.

Seeing that Harry is abusing that privilege Boyce stops it and makes Harry pay back the money that he took from the union treasury out of his paycheck. Sick and depressed Harry gets himself drunk one night and tries to have his way with one of the local neighborhood boys. Which leads to the boys friends brutally beating Harry to the point where he was within an inch of his life from being dead and ending up being literally crucified in an empty back-lot; This is the level of brutality in this movie. A violent brutal and at the same time shockingly honest movie about life in Brooklyn New York circa 1952. During a long and savage dock strike on Brooklyn's heavily industrialized Bush Terminal waterfront. The film is truly disturbing with a shocking and vicious gang rape inter-cut with a baby shower for one of the unions members "Big" Joe, Burt Young, daughters child at the local union hall. These are just two of many such jolting scenes in the movie.

An excellent cast with Stephen Lang, as the union shop steward who's problems are more then just the job that he has on the docks. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the bar girl who likes to date and then roll servicemen with the help of her friends to get their money and ends up paying for what she did in more ways then one. With Jerry Orbach as the feisty and two fisted union president who sticks to his guns and in the end gets what he wants for himself and his union members and many many more good actors and the parts that they play in the movie.

"Last Exit to Brooklyn" is a very hard movie to watch but if you want a film with brutal realism and fine acting and photography as well as a story that will grip you right from the start and hold on to you long after the movie is over this is it.
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a more violent time
vanlaarhovenp16 July 2004
Having been born in NYC during the late fifties it was important for me to read, see and finally own Last Exit To Brooklyn. Our household was always a violent and unhappy one. None of us lived in the streets like the characters in the film but the violence from there was definitely reflected in our day to day life. Heartwrenchingly faithful to the mood and sentiment of Hubert Selby's important novel I am continuously surprised at how films like this are overlooked in a larger, classic sense. This is not a pleasant film. The German direction and influence put me in mind of Fassbiner's Berlin Alexanderplatz. There was a similar grotesque as well as aesthetic beauty that I found to be very compelling. Most of all, however, I was remarkably impressed by Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance. She gave us the flip side of Marylin Monroe, the antithesis if you will. I'm pretty sure that she has not, as yet, received Oscar recognition and am puzzled how her performance in Last Exit did not get her a nod. This film come highly recommended.
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Emotionally draining... in a really good way
Flatliner8224 May 2004
The way "the golden era" really was. The statement on the state of the 1950s presented in Last Exit is shocking, enlightening, and well supported by beautiful performances of an ensemble cast. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tralala, a hooker WITHOUT a heart of gold (for a change) and Burt Young as a union hard hitter coming to terms with his sexuality are most notably inspiring. Excellent direction and a powerful script make Last Exit emotionally draining, and compelling.
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Well, that was depressing
cherold6 January 2010
The picture of an innocent 1950s promulgated by films of the time was thoroughly refuted with the book Last Exit to Brooklyn, which portrayed a world of sex and violence that would ring just as true if written about the present age. It was a dark book, and the movie is appropriately downbeat. It is a movie with no especially good people. Some of the people are likable, but even the likable ones are not really good people; some are criminals, thugs and users, some are more foolish and selfish and clueless (and at least one was made nicer than in the book).

The movie is done very effectively. There are some memorable scenes, and Jennifer Jason Leigh gives yet another memorable performance mixing, as usual, intense character and clothes removal.

I didn't think it was a great movie, but if I were more prone to dark, hopeless movies, as I was when younger, perhaps I would think so. It's certainly interesting.
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A shattering slice of life
ewa-330 June 2000
One of Leigh's best performances in a role that seemed to be written for her. You are rooting for her or ANYONE among the denizens of the strikebound Brooklyn docks to find a way to a better life but at the same time know that no one will make it. The Pieta like still-life after the climatic was a wonderful comment on both the content of the movie itself and the searing quality that some art can have.

It is on my list of most depressing movies, which includes "The Damned", "The Pawnbroker", "The Night Porter".
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Absolutely brilliant
hdf19652 January 2002
This is one of the best scripts EVER written...pure and simple. The idea of a story, where it operates completely on a subtextural level, forming an overall landscape of sin and redemption without the characters themselves even realizing it, is off the scale. People who say this film is meaningless probably wear tee-shirts with Meg Ryan's picture on the front. I'm not knocking Meg Ryan or the person wearing the's just a connection. I also don't agree that the story has no ending. It has a wonderful ending. Seeing Tralala, after what she just put herself through, finally respond to someone's genuine compassion, is a remarkable thing. The story operates on the same level as many Selby stories do, of characters so devoid of faith or hope that they don't recognize how close they are to having what they want or just appreciating the potential in what they have, and that mistake causes their undoing (in Stephen Lang's case) or their uncovered possibilities of grace (Jennifer Jason Leigh). In the end a new life (Burt Young's grandson) is brought into the world, and a new family formed by people who did recognize and do the right thing moves forward in the world. It's majestic.
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As Hard-Hitting as a Baseball Bat...
tim-764-29185615 July 2012
Mark Knopfler's beautiful and melancholy score paints a haunting and pained picture, over this, an extremely hard-hitting drama, superbly directed by Uli Edel.

For 1989, its release date and set around Brooklyn in the 1952, this is as strong as films got. The "C" word, rape scenes, florid homosexuality and sexual violence - from a novel (by Hubert Selby jnr) that was initially banned under the Obscene Publications Act.

So, why watch it? There's a sense of brooding beauty about it, in the same way that West Side Story had flawed characters, in so many conflicts, within their own community and incomers, such as military servicemen, at night, looking for a great time. Enter busty, platinum blonde and cocky Jennifer Jason Leigh, who gets men in bars buying her drinks, leads them out for some 'fun' and then her mates bash him round the head with a bottle. Grabbing the money, they're just those hoodlums from west Side...just older, doing worse things.

Stephen Lang, meanwhile, is the shop steward for a union, that's called its dockside workers out. He's raking in on expenses, for things he doesn't even need. He's got a wife and baby, but leaves them at night to go out with Regina (actually, Reginald) a camp gay and his bitching transvestite buddies.

As you can see, this is strictly for adults and no, I haven't read the book. A friend I lent the DVD to, who's read all manner of literature, from the classics to strong stuff like this, just said "Wow".

It's a memorable and distinctive film. Not one that's known, either commercially, or infamously. It doesn't seem to get bundled up with the likes of Natural Born Killers or A Clockwork Orange. Maybe cos it has a heart; a survivoral instinct that's most apparent in the Italian families in the film, headed by Burt Young, who of course played Paulie, Rocky Balboa's wheezing training aide, in the Rocky movies.

My Universal release has a fine transfer and is quite cheap, especially secondhand. So, if you want something pretty edgy, but with a heart and a pulse, this could end up in your player.
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Good, if not perfect. A film with sincerity and a Soul
fondblue20 September 1999
Actually, contrary to the other review I read, I thought the film provided too much resolution to a film that needed little. The almost upbeat closing seemed out of keeping with the nature of the film... is there anything inherently wrong with a film that allows characters to be forgotten or to live meaningless lives? I was genuinely surprised by the performances of the lead characters... very good performances... particularly from Leigh (normally the hallmark of a mediocre film)... a disturbing film that allowed itself to be disturbing...
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A masterpiece from Uli Edel
tetsuyo10 September 2003
This is a great film and one that I was not expecting to like. The dark subject matter may not be appealing to some but movie lovers will have to give props to the storytelling, the visually haunting look and the magnificently transparent performances. Watching this movie gave me the feeling like I was in Brooklyn in the 50's watching the other side of Leave It to Beaver. Classic films like Last Exit To Brooklyn stay in ones mind forever. That is the best complement that I can give to this movie. I wonder why the director has not done more feature film work cause this film is on the level of the greats.
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Terrible and uninspired directorial job
Private Ryan-231 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I was drawn to this movie, curious to see how they have adapted Hubert Shelby's brutal novel. I thought that a literary piece of such depth, with a rich tapestry of characters, horrid situations, and social critique could not translate into a bad movie. I was wrong.

This flick is a terrible movie experience, not for its content, but for its form. Director Ulrich Edel executes, in my sincere opinion, a terrible directorial job that does no justice to the original book. No wonder Edel is a TV director; this movie looks and feels like a bad "made for TV" flick. Some of my views on this bomb (**spoilers ahead**):

  • Lack of directorial creativity. The scenes are slow, feel slow, look poorly shot, and barely ever move from an anchored position. The only liberty they take is in the cinematography area, with a nice dark tone. Other than that, the movie has the same technical creativity as a TV soap-opera.

  • All the actors do a terrific job at portraying these miserable characters. The problem is that the adaptation does not tackle a basic element in the development of the plot: MOTIVATION. All these characters move around like robots, without a clear motivation for their action. They seem to do things out of the blue, like robots, for no reason at all. Edel misses every opportunity to enrich character development by not exploring the character's motivations, and by avoiding developing each character's personality to its full extent.

This lack of character development is blatant on Tralala. Jennifer Jason Leight does a great job playing this trashy prostitute, but her alcohol-induced decision to let the sailors violate her is not explained. It looks extremely stupid, as we see this character doing this out of the blue. This is a clear example of poor character development.

The movie also has many secondary, token characters that do nothing, feel nothing, and add nothing to the plot. I would have liked to learn more about Harry's wife, for instance, and the interaction between the two. That's another missed opportunity.

Edel only approaches character development with Harry and his fixation with his gay lover, only to screw it up at the end, not clearly explaining -again- his motivations. The thugs are also a joke in their lack of development.

  • The soundtrack is one of the worst I've ever experienced. Terrible job by Mark Knopfler. I seriously expected more from the former leader of Dire Straits, but his job in this movie is seriously lacking. At times, like in the battle between the union workers and the police, the music seems totally disconnected from the movie. It also feels completely poor and anachronic; I could swear the whole soundtrack was made with a Casio toy keyboard. It distracts from the actual action.

  • The book adaptation by Desmond Nakano is so literal that eliminates the point of the story. It feels as if they tried so hard to keep the action-by-action storyline in the book, that they forgot to actually develop the characters and, once again, explain their actions and motivations.

I seriously can not recommend this movie, not even to a Shelby fan, because it can ruin the original book. It's a very uninspired effort in adapting the novel, and shows very little creative input.
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Melodramatic to the point of satire.
satan4413 July 2004
So, after reading all the glowing reviews, I'll offer a different view: I felt the movie to be not very involving, oddly devoid of emotion and melodramatic to the point of satire. Filled to the brim with clichés too....

Really convincing art direction etc., but at times very badly acted/directed/written.

Considering the content, it *should* have been grim and disturbing, but really wasn't at all.

Haven't read the book, but have read The Willow Tree and liked it, and seen Requiem for a dream and loved it.

8/10 for the Art Direction etc., 5/10 for the rest.
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An underrated gem that stays faithful to Selby's novel.
cliffo8830 April 2011
Hubert Selby, Jr's controversial novel Last Exit to Brooklyn is a classic and is transferred to the big screen brilliantly by underrated German director Uli Edel. The film stays very faithful to the novel about, possibly, the lowest form of humanity that occupy the decaying streets of Brooklyn in the 1950s; brilliant cinematography giving the film a real sense of high class despite the modest budget. The movie takes place during a bitter factory strike and follows many characters and how their lives intersect. The acting is first rate, with Jennifer Jason Leigh (brilliant as usual) and Stephen Lang (now a cast member of the biggest grossing film in Hollywood history!) taking all the plaudits respectively as Tralala, the hooker with a hart of ice, money is all she knows and cares for; and Harry Black, the repressed homosexual leader of the strike. Indeed, very good all round which surprises me a little that this gem has fallen under the radar. This should've received some recognition from the Academy Awards (in an ideal world, eh?) but I guess the violence put some people off. Such a shame.
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a underrated masterpiece.
acadianjoe14 May 2017
I can recall when I first saw this in a Cinema back in the early summer of 1989 and it had been the first film in a long while that had me interested enough I actually went to theatre to see it. I went alone it was a weekday afternoon and most movies I cannot recall where or when I saw them but this one sticks in my mind. The cinematography was flawless, the acting from all the actors was near perfect, the story was riveting. I think it has a real and raw grittiness to it that most films try to get but miss and Last Exit to Brooklyn nails it. I loved it and think it is sadly underrated and under appreciated.
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Lots of loss but not much redemption...
moonspinner551 January 2017
Factory workers on-strike in Brooklyn, 1952 have nothing to do at night but get into trouble: the head of the strike office is leading a double life (he's married with a child, but is attracted to the drag queens who gather in an apartment in the neighborhood), his dumb-lugs friends beat up on servicemen, a platinum-haired tramp sets up horny soldiers to be rolled, and uncouth family man Big Joe (who urinates out the window when he can't get into the bathroom at home) discovers his daughter isn't just fat--she's pregnant. Adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.'s book is proudly melodramatic and vibrantly lurid, but is really just a showcase for the actors. Director Uli Edel does a professional, polished job here (far more polished than his shoestring 1981 teen-addict expose "Christiane F."), although his jagged narrative eventually begins to feel half-empty. Everyone is so pig-headed and rude that we don't get a sense of anything actually happening, while the brutality--overwrought in many instances, though one may argue necessarily so--hinders Edel in bringing all the stories to a satisfactory finish. There's some redemption in the aftermath of the violence (and even some humor when dealing with Burt Young's pathetic Big Joe), but there's far more victims than victors...and a depressing feeling of waste and uncaring that makes the picture seem like an exercise in futility. ** from ****
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scattered dark ugliness
SnoopyStyle1 June 2016
It's 1952 Brooklyn. Local workers are striking against a factory. Harry Black (Stephen Lang) is the union shop steward who discovers his hidden homosexuality. He leads the young local hoods including Vinnie (Peter Dobson) and Sal (Stephen Baldwin) in the strike effort. The hoods often work with prostitute Tralala (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to rob her military Johns. Georgette (Alexis Arquette) is a local transvestite. Boyce (Jerry Orbach) is the head of the union. Big Joe (Burt Young) finds his daughter Donna pregnant and forces a shotgun wedding.

The story is scattered among several characters. The novel may be a little difficult to adapt. The acting is generally solid with some great stand outs. Jennifer Jason Leigh especially delivers another one of her outstanding hooker characters. The scattered nature could be alleviated if the movie is willing to abandon the pregnant Donna story and give more time to the other stories. Stephen Lang could use more time for his character's big movements.
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Exit to hell, a reality, in one of Brooklyn's best
videorama-759-85939119 October 2015
LETB is one of those great 1990 films that stay in my mind, up there with The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover, Wild At Heart, the uncompromising and brilliant Goodfellas and Do The Right Thing, to name a few. What interests me more, is it's director, when you consider what he made before and after this film, the unfair latter of these titles, named as one of 93's worst. Set in Brooklyn, 1952, we flip through the lives of many characters, in their bored, going nowhere town. And what characters we meet, in still what appears, a film that has it's sleazy and shock for the thrill of shocking moments, and be warned some scenes are confronting. The movie could be seen like that, but doesn't mean it's not true. Jennifer Jason Leigh is fantastic here, top notch, as the towns popular hooker, who works a deal with the town's bad boys, to snag horny, but oblivious men, at the moment, sailors, soldiers, to lure them sexually, then knock 'em over, dividing the moolah between them. These punks, some of them real pigs, with no respect for women, especially Stephen Baldwin's character, who personally, I found quite repulsive, work at the bottle plant, whatever, where a a strike begins. One of them is forced to marry a fat women, he knocked up. We have the local real 'out there' homosexual, who dresses up in woman's clothing, a character again I found repulsive, as in his manner. There's the head manager of the plant, Stephen Lang, great, a married man, who can't come out of the closet, his last tragic scene, one of the most memorable in the film. We have a young, I guess geek type guy, drooling over and obsessing with Leigh, while trying to get his bloody motorcycle up and running. The gang bang scene with Leigh, was shocking but this guy coming to her rescue, alleviated the shock and truly made this scene a moving and poignant one, where just viewing this part again, after about twenty years, almost had my eyes tearing up. It's one of the most touching scenes I've ever experienced. LETB is about struggling and pitiable characters, it's title ringing true. Despite their ugly and repulsive traits, we do feel for them, where the reality here, the uglyness for them, is that this is as probably as good as it's ever gonna get for them. That's what's tragic. This enthusiastic effort does seem one, held by some juicy shock moments and themes, but you can't deny, the powerful impact this movie serves, bringing with it stand up performances, especially from Leigh and Terranova's Lang. The music by Knophler is great, but the other music, isn't bad either, one tune familiarly sounding in it's start, to that one in Rumble Fish, if you can remember.
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All But The Sickest Critics Justifiably Panned This Movie
ccthemovieman-126 December 2007
When this was released, I thought this was one of the most profane films ever made. However, thanks to Martin Scorcese and a few other filmmakers like him, there have been mainline films worse, language-wise, than this....but this is a pretty brutal assault on one's ears. Hey, I can take a lot of it, but this got ridiculous. In the first six minutes alone, I heard a half-dozen usage's of the Lord's name in vain plus an untold number of f-words. I wonder how many people walked out of the theater watching this in 1990? I couldn't have been the only one.

Not surprisingly, some of the feature actors included Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Burt Young, Jerry Orbach and Rikki Lake. Since this film, Stephen Lang seems to have improved his image, at least playing the Godly "Stonewall" Jackson in "Gods and Generals." Lang's role here is just the opposite: perhaps the worst trashy person in the film and a character who falls in love with a transvestite by the end of the film.

Depressing, gloomy, semi-pornographic, repulsive: these are just a few of the adjectives people used - even some Liberal critics - in describing this story, which is painted even worse in the novel. Of course, some of the better-known critics, all extreme Libs, praised the movie. However, they were the only ones. Most critics were disgusted, as well almost all of the paying public. It's unbelievable that anyone could praise filth and garbage like this.

Trust me on this: there are no good, likable characters in this entire movie. This is a mean, sick film: one of the worst of the "modern era." That is, unless you enjoy seeing child abuse, drug abuse, teen prostitutes, on and on - two straight hours of nothing but atrocities and just plain evil people. No thanks.
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A Masterpiece!!!
youwe2-19 July 2005
A RARE piece of intelligence, and American film. One of the finest movies ever made. A timeless classic. Sadly underestimated and overlooked though in its time (circa late 80's/early 90's when released). The characters are "true-to-life", the acting so convincing you begin to feel their emotions, the directing as if by the author of the book himself, and the cinematography to linger in your mind long after watching it. It is really a story of characters. A story that becomes the reminder of how true and passionate human emotions really are. Many have called the book and movie depressing, but I don't. I find it an honest portrayal and experience into the lives and loves of the American lower-class.
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