Bearing not a little resemblance to Scorsese's Mean Streets, not to mention Toback's earlier script for Karel Reisz's The Gambler, this is a raw thriller-cum-psychodrama about a split personality: Keitel plays an aspiring concert pianist strangely fascinated by the violence he encounters while enforcing the payment of 'debts' owed to his criminal father. The idea is none too original, and the film can certainly be faulted for its macho posturing and unquestioning misogyny. Nonetheless, Toback, making his directing debut, is clearly exorcising - or indulging - a few personal demons, and the perverse conviction of Keitel's tormented performance, reinforced by restless, sometimes volatile visuals, prevents the overheated plot from becoming entirely risible. It's not exactly pleasant, but it is compelling.
Cast and crew
Michael V Gazzo