Mickey (Beatty) is a successful nightclub comedian, confused and neurotic about his life in general, and possibly suffering from a persecution complex: someone or something is threatening him, for something he may have done in the past. Exactly what he is afraid of - the Mob, America at large, his conscience? - and why remains all too obscure in Penn's most European movie, made with almost total artistic freedom; the result, at once his most infuriating and one of his most intriguing films, is a rather vague allegory about alienation, guilt and despair, structured as an elliptical narrative complete with jump-cuts and bizarre, symbolic images. A few scenes are truly disquieting - as when Beatty is auditioned in a silent, darkened auditorium - but the overall effect is too cerebrally self-conscious to be genuinely gripping.
Cast and crew