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.