CAN HE GO STRAIGHT OR WILL HE GO STRAIGHT BACK INSIDE?
After six years in prison, Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is released and makes a genuine attempt to go straight; he finds a job and starts dating a girl (Theresa Russell), but his parole officer becomes a problem… Hoffman started directing this drama, but handed over the reins to Ulu Grosbard; perhaps just as well, because the star’s focus on his performance as the ex-con is one of the movie’s chief virtues. The story takes a surprising turn after a while and becomes darker – and more exciting, as the thief turns out to have a more brutal side that Hoffman brings out in brilliant fashion. Nothing terribly novel here, but credible and it has very good performances all around.
1978-U.S. 114 min. Color. Produced by Stanley Beck, Tim Zinnemann. Directed by Ulu Grosbard. Screenplay: Alvin Sargent, Edward Bunker, Jeffrey Boam. Novel: Edward Bunker (“No Beast So Fierce”). Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Max Dembo), Theresa Russell (Jenny Mercer), Harry Dean Stanton (Jerry Schue), Gary Busey, M. Emmet Walsh, Sandy Baron… Kathy Bates.
Last word: “I did a take that I was in and I said, ‘What do you guys think?’ And the cinematographer would nod his head and say move on, the editor would say it’s no good, and that happened over and over again, until finally I couldn’t tell. I lost my objectivity. I fired myself [as director] because we didn’t have playbacks. […] People were able to make movies and be in them before me. ‘Citizen Kane’ – Orson Welles didn’t need a monitor, and I should not have let that stop me. But I did.” (Hoffman, The Guardian)