Straight Time (1977)

Maybe it’s the heist movie for 54-year-olds? Ulu Grosbard was 48 when he made it.

Dustin Hoffman optioned the book himself (by Eddie Bunker) and wanted to direct it. Curious, as he never wanted to do anything else like it, and eventually ended up directing… Quartet, 37 years later.
His performance as Max Dembo is just astonishing. (And I don’t even like him much.) His EYES are so good here. He has that look I know so well: He’d punch the walls if he could… but this time he won’t. He’s been here too many times before. He just shows it in his eyes…
The noise he makes when he gets his hands on a shotgun…

Theresa Russell, aged only 21! In her second film.
Age difference? OK, it was a little extreme. Theresa Russell was 21. Hoffman was 41. But he’s just been in prison! He would go after her. We WANT them to get together…
Her response to jewellery: ‘It’s disgusting!’
And she gives (to DH) the same ultimatum that Robert De Niro gives to a WOMAN in Heat. Far more interesting for HER…
(No surprise Nicolas Roeg snapped her up for 5 1/2 films. What happened to her? She made Black Widow when she was 30. Since when she’s worked all the time, but in v little you’ve heard of.)

M Emmet Walsh as the parole officer who is perfectly rational but we just don’t like…
Gary Busey (with his son played by his own son, later an actor…)…
Kathy Bates, in (almost) her first film as Busey’s wife, who warns Max off. You know she’s right. And so does he…
Harry Dean Stanton – great as ever. His death scene is so powerful – after a Point Break-style run through suburban gardens…
The climax: will he/won’t he shoot Gary Busey? So agonising…
Closes on the teenage mugshot of Max Dembo. The eyes! (They must be a thing for UG…)

From IMDb:
Uncredited, Michael Mann worked on adapting the film’s source novel “No Beast So Fierce” by Edward Bunker for the movie’s script. The book later acted as a point of reference for Mann for the Neil McCauley character (played by Robert De Niro) when Mann later made the movie Heat (1995).

It’s clearly an influence on Heat. But I would say (to the disbelief of my 30-year-old self) that this was infinitely greater. It’s the lowest-key thriller ever. Almost the anti-Heat.
It was shot, in anti-noir style, by Owen Roizman, who shot all of the 70s big films (The Exorcist, The French Connection, Network, the list goes on) but then turned to commercials. Obviously wanted more money!
David Shore: soundtrack by one of the greatest 70s film composers (The Conversation, The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three and, 30 years later, Zodiac!)


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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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