Straight Time - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Straight Time Reviews

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February 19, 2018
One of my favorite crime films is an engrossing gritty depiction of the life of an ex-con (not that I'm a real expert on the subject, but it seemed realistic to me). The film opens with Dustin Hoffman playing a greasy haired lowlife just released from prison, having to check in with his sleazy parole office, the great M. Emmet Walsh, looking for a job, but having trouble since he has a record, though he does con his way into the life of a pretty girl, the under appreciated Theresa Russell. Hoffman tries to go straight for a bit, but he doesn't try all that that hard before he slips back into a life of crime, pulling jobs with his equally scuzzy friend Harry Dean Stanton. What's most striking and memorable about "Straight Time" is how realistic the film feels. Sure lots of film have presented unglamorous depictions of a life of crime, but "Straight Time" does more than that. The script was based on a novel from real-life career criminal Edward Bunker, who later became a respected Hollywood script doctor and screenwriter. Besides Bunker, the script was also worked on by Jeffrey Boam ("The Dead Zone" "Innerspace" "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"), Alvin Sargent ("Ordinary People," "Paper Moon," and even the recent Spider-Man films), and uncredited work by Michael Mann ("Miami Vice," "Heat," "Collateral"). The script is filled with wonderful small moments that you rarely see in crime films prior to this, such as Hoffman telling a junkie friend that his shooting up in front of him could put him away, or Hoffman casing a jewelry store with his unwitting girlfriend as cover, or a burglary scene where Hoffman bypasses a pawn shop's alarm by breaking into the store next door and busting a hole in the wall to steal pawn shop guns. The films filled with these sorts of moments that give it an authenticity that's missing from most standard of crime films. Another huge asset of the film is it's cast. Besides the above mentioned Hoffman, Russell, Walsh, and Stanton, you also have strong a strong performance by Gary Busey as Hoffman's junkie friend and most surprising of all is a young Kathy Bates playing Busey's wife, who's trying to raise a family and also trying to keep her husband on the straight and narrow, away from the criminal influence she knows Hoffman brings. Bates only has a few scenes, but leaves a strong impression on the audience as likely the most identifiable "normal" character in the film. Her most memorable scene is when Hoffman visits her and Busey and their family, when at one point she has Hoffman alone in their kitchen and tries to very nicely tell him to not come around anymore. Writer Edward Bunker also shows up in one scene as a sleazy low life character. Directed by Ulu Grosbard, the film has a wonderfully gritty feel for this lurid story of low level street criminals. While most crime films of this era focused on "professional" criminals, films such as "Prime Cut," "Charley Varrick," "The Outfit," or even "The French Connection" (which are all great films), "Straight Time" presented a unique window in the life of real criminals. Watching this film now in 2018, there's also a retro charm to the film, from Hoffman's huge sideburns, to Russell's awesome 70s outfits, to the cars, to the quaint lack of technology, which now all seems super cool, even if it was probably quite the opposite at the time of the film's original release. It's also pretty clear that "Straight Time" was an influence on "Reservoir Dogs," particularly the jewelry store robbery that's never shown in Dogs, but is shown in this film; not to mention Bunker having a small role in "Reservoir Dogs" as Mr. Blue. With music by David Shire and cinematography by Owen Roizman ("Tootsie," "The Exorcist," "The French Connection"), "Straight Time" is an American Film classic of the first order that deserves more recognition than it's been given.
February 14, 2018
One of a number of seventies movies that focus on character more than plot. An ensemble of excellent character actors pivot round a low-life crook (Hoffmann, very good, restrained) trying and failing to go straight. Nice unobtrusive direction from Ulu Grosbard, and another fine jazz score by David Shire.
February 2, 2018
I just saw this movie on February 1, 2018. This was really a gritty movie about crime and its diverse aspects. It also demonstrated how that power hungry officials can complicate, if not destroy, the life a criminal who has done his time, and wants to make a decent life for himself. Dustin Hoffman was outstanding and so was M. Emment Walsh, Max Dembo's parole officer. The photography was superb of life in L.A. of the 1970's. I highly recommend this film.
January 31, 2018
Strong performances just don't elevate this straightforward, if cautionary, film.
August 5, 2017
Dustin Hoffman in the '70's was really something to watch. He made me believe he was a cold blooded thief/killer, which is difficult to do since he's so tiny. It's a shame the story wasn't as strong as the acting. Interesting to see a very young Theresa Russell and Kathy Bates.
March 28, 2017
Though this crime drama film is hardly original in its plot it is elevated above average status by a great lead performance by Hoffman, a solid supporting cast, an excellent score and a couple of tense and well filmed heist scenes.
September 12, 2016
Dustin Hoffman stars as ex-con Max Dembo in this adaptation of Eddie Bunker's pseudo-autobiographical novel "No Beast So Fierce". Max tries going straight for a little while, but a run-in with his parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) gives him the excuse he's looking for to go back to a life of crime. Hoffman really isn't the obvious choice to play a tough guy, but this film was a passion project for him (he was originally going to direct it), and he loses himself completely in this role. It's a pretty fatalistic film ... I don't think anyone watching it could ever think things will turn out okay for Max ... and a quiet masterpiece with it's authentic, gritty atmosphere and phenomenal cast ...Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton and Kathy Bates.
½ May 13, 2016
I've seen this film before. I got to about the same place in the movie that I did the first time and couldn't take it any longer. Slow moving and ultra-realistic to the point of being not cinema. The characters, especially the goofball played by Busey, are TOO realistic. I liked Hoffman, Bates, and Walsh the most.
There's no humor in this movie at all. It's like being flushed down the toilet with no hope of popping back up. It's aggravating. You want to strike out at the screen and punch the characters in the mouth.
Having said all of that, Hoffman is terrific. Every time this guy smiles or laughs it makes you feel good. He makes the movie tolerable. . .for a while. Hoffman is great in the film, but even HE doesn't look like he's having a good time filming it. Stanton may be good in the film, but I never get far enough into it to find out. The scenes in the can factory are ugly and annoying. The seventies clothing is hysterical. I don't get the sense I'm in Los Angeles either. They could have filmed this somewhere in Kentucky and saved money. Think of how New York was a "character" in Midnight Cowboy. They could have done something like that.
Anyways, boring movie with the exception of Hoffman, and in the end, even he can't drag this out of the mundane muck.
½ May 8, 2016
Engrossing crime scenes
½ April 20, 2016
Quite a good film with some very memorable moments if a tad unrealistic
½ February 7, 2016
Engrossing modern crime drama mixing the ills of a system with the difficulty in going 'straight' and a burgeoning post-prison relationship. The sum of its parts make for a fascinating feature with plenty of star names in the cast list.
January 22, 2016
Although flawed by the same cinematic missteps typical of the 70s (overdone score, editing, sound) this picture is a gem and worth the two hour investment. Hoffman's character is believable and engaging and most of the support cast doesn't distract. The character that really caught my attention was that of Jenny, played by Theresa Russell. Her attraction to Hoffman's character was never conveyed in words, but I found I could conjure up a story just from her expressions. She and Hoffman made this otherwise ordinary 70s film into a real thought piece.
January 14, 2016
Not a very complicated film about the struggles of ex-cons, but so much was powerfully said without words. Hoffman does a great job and Russell was charming.
January 10, 2016
Cmon! This movie sucked!
January 9, 2016
Gene Siskel picked this as his favourite film of 1978, and it is probably the best Dustin Hoffman film that people overlook. Excellent character study and performances, though Therea Russells character is a bit of a cypher.
½ January 9, 2016
Heart-Breaking Character Study

Dustin Hoffman gives one of his all-time greatest performances in this film! He was started as director on it, but found it to be too much to do acting, producing and directing.

Ulu Grosbard takes over beautifully, knowing exactly the right tone and the right pace for the film. Cinematography by Owen Roizman has that great documentary quality, like was seen in "Dog Day Afternoon."

The script went through a number of writers, but you would never know. It still feels unified and organic.

Please see this film! It is one of the great character studies! If you have seen it, I want to talk about Hoffman's character. It truly is tragic what happens to him. But, on the second viewing, I really could tell how impulsive the character was, and that's what condemns him at the film's close. The oft-misheard line at the end is: "I'm gonna get caught." He knows that he is done, and is letting Teresa Russell's character off so that she isn't with him when that happens. It is heartbreaking. I especially have little sympathy for criminals, especially in organized crime movies. So, the fact that I feel for Hoffman's character is rare for me. But, this film makes that happen, and impressively so!

All in all, a great movie. It doesn't at all matter that it was made in the 1970's. You really won't think about that for more than a few minutes, at most.

Highly recommended!
January 8, 2016
good slice of 70's cinema
January 7, 2016
If all Hoffman performances fought to the death, this one would stand atop the dead.
November 20, 2015
Very enjoyable. Will recommend, I'm sure some Hoffman fans haven't seen this specific character played by the actor. Different but fits well.
½ May 18, 2015
Despite some signs of muddle and uncertainty (Ulu Grosbard replaced Dustin Hoffman as director during the shooting), this is a surprisingly strong picture about a convict (Hoffman) on parole in LA learning what the supposedly "normal" world is all about.
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