Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Red Hook, 1950s. Like Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, this movie pulls no punches with Hubert Selby's grim source material. It may not be as slickly edited, but it wallows in the Brooklyn gutters and empty lots and dive bars and stinky low rent apartments enough that you feel you need a second shower by credit's end. On the seediness scale, I'd put it on par with Barfly, another late-'80s film by a Germanic director that wallows authentically in the American underclass. What is it with these Germans that they know how to nail American city squalor better than we do?

LE to B concerns the few days surrounding a factory strike in Brooklyn, but that is probably the least interesting element here. You watch this one for the "fearless" performances. There's Jennifer Jason Leigh (no slouch when it comes to giving body and soul to a role) as the tragically hardened street walker Tralala. There's that guy from Avatar (Stephen Lang) playing a factory worker husband dabbling in the gay underworld when he's not running the strike office. There's the always welcome Burt Young, playing father to a knocked-up Ricki Lake. There's also a very young Sam Rockwell with no lines to say and Stephen Baldwin with, perhaps, a few too many.

LE to B can delve into the melodramatic at times, and the score by Dire Straits front-man Mark Knopfler sometimes tips toward the heavy-handed. But that shouldn't stop you from checking it out if you cotton to dirty, superbly acted urban dramas.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

How come you didn't mention Desmond Nakano's adaptation of the book? I worked with that guy several years and he still returns my e-mails when I write to him. He was mentored by Paul Schrader.