At Close Range - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

At Close Range Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 16, 2011
Fact is stranger than fiction. And it was so in this case. I found the real events on which the movie was based to be creepier than the movie itself. I was startled to learn that some of the sequences weren't artistic creations, but it happened for real. For example: I found the scene where Brad Jr. gets shot with Terry, but survives it, to be unbelievable, but was surprised I was furious over that clickhe when Sean Penn came out of the car after being hit badly. Thoughj it may not have happened per se as in the movie, but it did happen seems surprising. The screenplay could have been better than what it is with the given storyline.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
Yes, this movie is based on a true story, but true stories aren't always that good as movies. I liked some of this movie, it's got some good actors, too, but most of it was boring and I didn't care for the end.
Super Reviewer
July 6, 2010
Christopher Walken and Sean Penn star in this much overlooked film from 1986 regarding a family of small-time criminals. Walken plays Brad Whitewood Sr., the malevolent, soft spoken father who really cares about his family of criminals, yet his own flesh and blood's importance to him is quite dubious.
Sean Penn and his brother Chris portray the Whitewood sons Brad Jr. and Tommy, and a slew of other known actors such as the brilliant Crispin Glover play friends and partners in crime. If you've missed this one and are a fan of any of the aforementioned actors, I highly recommend this.
Super Reviewer
½ March 5, 2007
It was clear to see in this film what a great actor Sean Penn was going to become. A very slender Chris Penn plays his on and off screen brother and the talented Christopher Walken his father.

Slightly drawn out, this film shows a teenage delinquent who is impressed by his real father's reputation and gets deeper and deeper into crime. The moral of the story gives out a very strong messge.

VERDICT: An enjoyable, but slightly slow to watch, but worth watching
Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2009
A lot of the character connections in this movie feel stilted and never quite take on a sense of reality. This is in large part due to the staging by director James Foley, and what is at times a frustrating script. Motivations are lost in the thick of action, and we are left with a void that prevents it from being anything other than a solid thriller. Christopher Walken is a foreboding, intriguing presence onscreen, and I found that he was an absolute joy to watch. Sean Penn also does a very good job as his morally conflicted son.
October 3, 2008
I watched this instead of the VP debates. Glad I did. Haven't seen it since its HBO days 20 years ago! An underrated '80s crime drama with great performances from Penn & Walken, cool '80s synth score (Madonna's "Live to Tell" w/o lyrics!), moody cinematography, & a cool climactic confrontation (the title gives you a hint). Great death scene with Chris Penn, alas. "Is this the family gun, Dad?!" Damn.
September 12, 2008
Sean Penn Oscar should have ! Everyone was awesome ! I remember when this happened in Pennsylvania. He was spot on !
½ December 24, 2008
An overlooked yet beautifully shot film. Great acting with a true story thats scary to believe it happened.
October 2, 2008
I watched this instead of the VP debates. Glad I did. Haven't seen it since its HBO days 20 years ago! An underrated '80s crime drama with great performances from Penn & Walken, cool '80s synth score (Madonna's "Live to Tell" w/o lyrics!), moody cinematography, & a cool climactic confrontation (the title gives you a hint). Great death scene with Chris Penn, alas. "Is this the family gun, Dad?!" Damn.
½ November 27, 2007
At one point, I was looking at how many films I owned with certain actors in them, amongst the names on that list were Sam Neill, Christopher Walken and Kiefer Sutherland--essentially actors I'm a big enough fan of that I felt their miniscule appearances in my DVD collection were not accurately representative of my appreciation of their talents. As such, I began browsing their filmographies on IMDb and adding films that were well-reviewed overall and/or sounded interesting.

Imagine my surprise when I stumble across a film I'd never heard of that stars Christopher Walken and Sean Penn (!). A glance at the credits further adds Sean's brother Chris, who I like as well, and looking further down we can even find a pre-Lost Boys Kiefer Sutherland, Crispin Glover and even Tracey Walter (aka "Bob," the Joker's "number one guy" in Tim Burton's Batman). As I was watching, a voice and face jumped out attached to a name that wouldn't immediately do so--Stephen Geoffreys, known to fans of 80s horror as Fright Night's "Evil Ed." Great voice that guy had then (I'd imagine he still has it, but perhaps it has flattened itself out from that oddly jerky calliope of constantly nervous tone).

Brad Whitewood, Jr. (Sean Penn) is a slacker in a small family, living with his mother, brother Tommy (naturally his real brother Chris) and grandmother (Eileen Ryan--MOTHER of Chris and Sean), smoking pot, working on his truck and generally having fun but doing little of responsibility. He meets a girl, Terry (Mary Stuart Masterson), and falls hard. Randomly one day, a man enters their home and leaves money for their mother. Brad is transfixed and begins to follow the man--his father, Brad Whitewood, Sr. (Walken), who gives him a car and some money, then eventually lets him join up with Big Brad's gang of thieves who often work by stealing tractors then laundering money in simplistic ways. When he is exposed to the ruthlessness of his father, Brad begins to forge out on his own, a misfiring tractor theft plan with his friends (including Geoffreys, Glover and Sutherland) leads to his arrest. Now he begins to really see the man his father is, and it's not quite who he thought, nor even quite what we thought.

Is it any surprise to say performances in this movie are excellent? I sure hope not. If it is, you are either unfamiliar with the names I've mentioned or mis-read them. Walken is disturbingly intense and cold as the unforgiving and amoral Brad, Sr. and Penn brings an appreciable sense of worship to the father he has just discovered, as well as an appropriate sense of ignorant na´vetÚ as regards the life of crime his father lives. Masterson is excellent as a young girl trying to act older than herself to match the men around her, defending Penn--foolishly--against his father's gang as they snicker at his desire to enter the gang.

The movie is dark, it's bleak, it's unhappy and it pulls no punches. Apparently based on a true story (I normally read about them before writing reviews when this occurs, but have not this time) but seeming most definitely like something we hope is NOT real. The tone and atmosphere, though, are my favourite. Most of the score is actually an instrumental version of Penn's then-wife Madonna's song "Live to Tell," an aching synthetic piano and keyboard line which, in my 80's-infected brain is the perfect example of heartstring-pulling, over even some of the most beautiful scores of the likes of Morricone. This is not to say it's better, but I feel some kind of greater identification with these half-false sounds than I do with the real ones, thanks to the things that I grew up with. It has a feel similar to Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 opus Near Dark, which has a fantastic Tangerine Dream score, and is a film I openly identify as perfectly capturing the kind of feel and cinematography that hits something deep inside me. A sort of darkness to everything, but one filled with thick, rich colours that are just above reality without crossing into the more modern lines of the carefully controlled and orchestrated colouration. It feels like reality, in some ways, as this richness enhances existing elements of reality in the film, bringing things that would otherwise seem like real theatricality--i.e., events we can see and identify with--and bringing them more to life by giving them that extra edge of sense-battering feeling, using the artificially enhanced colour to bring a flat screen to life, simply by having that much greater an effect on our sense of sight.

There's a very haunting scene toward the end composed primarily of extreme close-ups against a black background with that same synthetic instrumental pop ballad scoring which perfectly captures the correct usage of music video editing in a non-action film. It is not about how many cuts or how many close-ups and images can be crammed into a space of time, but what simple images can be used to rapidly convey ideas and feelings in a reduced amount of time.

I've just got to point out that Crispin Glover's hairstyle and behaviour, including his acting, in this movie further worry me about his actual mental state. I think this guy is at least slightly nuts, or possibly some sort of alien. I suppose he just blazes his own path and all, which I can identify with, but, man, I hope for his sake that this strange insanity does not get him into trouble or leave him FEELING as alienated as he looks. If you doubt what I say, look for some of his late night interviews. Something is going on there. Maybe he just enjoys playing with people (a la Andy Kaufman) but I don't know. Perhaps there are chemicals involved...
½ August 12, 2007
The fact that this was based on a true story is what makes much of it so unnerving.

Walken is great as a charmer of a deadbeat father and Sean Penn does a fine job as a young man looking for happiness and a way in life.

Also - look for Crispin Glover, Sutherland, and Chris Penn in some very early roles - each of them looking quite innocent.
½ June 4, 2007
This is my favorite Christopher Walken flick. He is mezmerizing. Sean Penn is excellent as well. One of my favorite flicks.
April 2, 2007
This is a great film based on a true story. Sean Penn and Christopher Walken are great in this film. A great 1986 drama film that is a classic that should be seen.
May 2, 2006
One of Sean Penn's great early performances. Walken is disturbingly realistic in his portrayal as the father from hell. Great Madonna song too.
January 7, 2016
I saw this on TV last night (1-6-2015) and was shocked at how great it was and I had never heard of this. Based on a true story was the thing that caught my eye, and this movie is so worth seeing. Hard to imagine these things happen and that some do not have a conscience and could do this to their own
½ November 13, 2015
A film I knew little about, but with such a magnificent cast I had to give it a go. Based on a true story. A dad, doing all sorts of crimes, get's a sudden bonding with his two sons as they are in their early twenties or so. This results in shooting, drugs and several other crimes.

A solid story that is taking nice turns. It's superbly acted by both Sean Penn and Walken in particular. It looks all right and it got some great scenes. Sadly, it's not all that as a whole. Not a constant thrill and it's not super interesting at times. I miss some realer emotions. With that said, it's very realistic - a good feature.

I believe it's the first time I see a song and it's performer starting of the ending credits. A pretty weird touch, even if it was a hit and Madonna was Penn's wife and all.

6.5 out of 10 windscreen wipers.
½ October 27, 2014
An underrated classic headlined by one of Sean Penn's best performances and Chris Walken at his evil best. Walken really should have won another supporting actor Oscar for this role. He nailed this role so good and is so perfect in this movie. This also has a great supporting cast and classic of a theme song by Madonna.
March 22, 2015
The two leads deliver big on a story of unimaginable betrayal.
December 5, 2014
Solid performances from Penn and Walken, though the pacing is a bit slow.
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