Thursday, 27 January 2011

Straight Time (1978)

"Please God, don't let him get caught."

Straight Time is the story of Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman), a former burglar who has just served 6 years in prison and now released on parole. All he wants to do is go straight, get a real job and earn some dignity but his parole officer Earl (M. Emmet Walsh) has other ideas. After becoming increasingly frustrated Max soon gets caught up in all sorts of trouble and it's not too long before he returns to a life of crime.

This film has an unbleievable cast. You have Dustin Hoffman as the lead with Gary Busey and Harry Dean Stanton as his friends. You then have Kathy Bates as a (very slim) wife of Gary Busey's character Willy and Jake Busey playing the on screen (as well as off) son as well. As if that wasn't enough you even get M. Emmet Walsh playing the psychotic parole officer. It's just a fantastic line-up of top draw hollywood actors.

My favourite scene from the entire movie involves Max and his parole officer in the car.
Earl cracks down on him at every opportunity and it's not long before he's packed Max back off to jail after suspecting him of using heroine. When Max's urine tests negative for any drugs he is released yet again and takes his frustration out on the power-hungry parole officer. Beating him at the wheel of his car before chaining him to a fence butt naked, and then leaving him for the whole city to see by the side of the road. It's the major turning point in the film and the scene where Max is finally broken.

I loved the film and thought it was a great character study of a man looking to make it in the world and change his ways. For all his efforts in his attempts to do so, you still always got the feeling that he could have his head turned by the lure of money. If nobody gives him a fair shot after prison and he can't make a single buck, it's only a matter of time before he understands that money is made easiest and quickest when stolen.

This is a very slow burning story but one which requires and ultimately deserves your full attention.

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