A gripping, disturbing, and unglamorized portrait of a professional thief who thrives on the thrill and danger of his actions. Hoffman, in one of the best performances of his career, plays a thief who is released from prison after a six-year sentence for armed robbery. Hoffman tries to go
straight but is continually thwarted by slimy parole officer Walsh, as well as his old friends, a motley assortment of junkies and small-time hoods.
Based on ex-convict Edward Bunker's novel No Beast So Fierce, STRAIGHT TIME was an obsessive labor of love for its star, who had purchased the rights to the novel in 1972. Hoffman struck a deal with First Artists that would give him the right to direct the film and supervise the final cut. To
research his role Hoffman had himself booked at Los Angeles County Jail and went through the procedure all inmates go through (this was later re-created for the film in documentarylike fashion). Hoffman also sneaked into San Quentin prison and mingled with the prisoners for several hours incognito
to get the feel of prison life. The actor also interviewed ex-cons and visited their homes. During production, however, Hoffman found that acting and directing were too much for him, so he hired his old friend Grosbard to take over the helm. When the filming was completed, First Artists president
Phil Feldman took control of the film and refused Hoffman his right to final cut (Feldman was the same man who tampered with Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH, cutting over 20 minutes of character development behind the director's back). Hoffman sued for damages. The studio, which thought the film
was a disaster, dumped the movie into release, where it received bad reviews and little box office attention. Hoffman's case was thrown out, and to this day the actor speaks little of it. But Hoffman has nothing to be ashamed of. STRAIGHT TIME is a powerful film that shows a criminal as he is. The
film has no tired explanations for Hoffman's behavior, no fingers are pointed, no apologies or excuses are offered. Hoffman is a habitual criminal and that is the way he is. Though the parole system is taken to task for the "Catch 22"-type restrictions given to ex-cons, this is not presented as an
excuse for Hoffman's return to crime--only a match that ignites the fuse already inside the man. The performances in STRAIGHT TIME are nothing less than superb. Walsh is perfect as the slimy parole officer who couldn't care less about his charges. Busey once again proves his versatility and is
unforgettable as the pathetic addict. Russell is fine as the naive girl willing to let Hoffman drift through her life, and Stanton practically steals the film as the ex-thief yearning to escape from the boredom of his suburban lifestyle. Grosbard's direction is straightforward and professional. A
highlight is the electrifying scene of a jewelry store robbery.
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- Released: 1978
- Rating: R
- Review: A gripping, disturbing, and unglamorized portrait of a professional thief who thrives on the thrill and danger of his actions. Hoffman, in one of the best performances of his career, plays a thief who is released from prison after a six-year sentence for a… (more)