Since co-writing the screenplay to HATS OFF, a forgotten 1936 musical, fabled bad boy director Samuel Fuller has written and/or helmed dozens of films, including I SHOT JESSE JAMES, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, CHINA GATE, UNDERWORLD, U.S.A., SHOCK CORRIDOR, THE NAKED KISS, THE BIG RED ONE and
WHITE DOG. His pulpy sensibilities haven't always endeared Fuller to mainstream critics, but he has a substantial cult following both in the U.S. and, particularly, in Europe. Since the 60s, Fuller, who now lives in France, has made few films, and STREET OF NO RETURN, adapted from the pulp novel
by American writer David Goodis, seems on the surface a perfect match of director and material.
On a slum street, bums drink cheap wine while various low lifes and poor-but-honest citizens go about their business. A fight starts and spreads, until it becomes a fullscale race riot and the police are called in to suppress the violence. One bum, Whitey (Keith Carradine), picks through the
rubble looking for a drink. Wandering through the deserted streets, he sees a woman through the window of a luxurious house. Her name is Celia (Valentina Vargas), and once she and Whitey knew one another.
He was a rock singer named Michael, fabulously wealthy and self-centered. She appeared in a video clip with him, which led to a passionate affair. They decided to run away together, but her boyfriend Eddie (Marc DeJonge), a brutal gangster, intercepted them and threatened to kill Michael unless
Celia stayed with him. She did, but Eddie had his revenge anyway. He had Michael beaten and his throat cut, leaving his voice a hoarse, ruined whisper. His career destroyed, Michael drifted into alcoholism and wound up on the streets.
Michael wanders back to the street where the riot occurred and is arrested for the murder of a cop. Lieutenant Borel (Bill Duke), who's under a great deal of pressure to quell the riots and find the cop killer, interrogates him. Michael escapes and discovers that Eddie--who intends to make a
killing in real estate by devaluing property in the neighborhood--is behind the riot. Hoping to rescue Celia from the violence he knows is coming, Michael returns to Borel and reveals what he knows. Borel is skeptical, but investigates and in the ensuing melee, Eddie's gang is slaughtered. Michael
returns to the streets, but wakes from a drunken sleep to find that Borel has brought Celia to him. Celia and Michael walk off together as the sun rises.
Philadelphia-born David Goodis's work like Fuller's has met with far greater enthusiasm abroad than in his native country. His gloomy, masochistic novels have been adapted into such films as Pierre Chenal's SECTION DES DISPARUS/OF MISSING PERSONS, Jacques Tourneur's NIGHTFALL, Francois Truffaut's
TIREZ SUR LE PIANIST/SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER and, more recently, Jean-Jacques Beineix's LA LUNE DANS LE CANIVEAU/THE MOON IN THE GUTTER, Gilles Behat's RUE BARBARE/STREET OF THE LOST and Francis Girot's DESCENTE AUX ENFERS/THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN. Overwrought and creepily sensual, Goodis's prose
and Fuller's filmmaking seem made for one another--the two were even acquainted, having met during the 40s when both were in Hollywood. But STREET OF NO RETURN is not a successful film. It lacks the brutal directness of Fuller's earlier work, and though it aims for a lyrical surrealism rooted in
violence and degradation, all too often it's just plain silly.
In particular, Fuller has no feel for the world of rock music; Michael looks and sounds like Neal Diamond in Las Vegas lounge mode. The Portuguese locations are also a debit; though they're photographed to exaggerate their urban anonymity, they're clearly not American. STREET OF NO RETURN is
important in the overall context of Samuel Fuller's career, but can't stand on its own. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Since co-writing the screenplay to HATS OFF, a forgotten 1936 musical, fabled bad boy director Samuel Fuller has written and/or helmed dozens of films, including I SHOT JESSE JAMES, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, CHINA GATE, UNDERWORLD, U.S.A., SHOCK CORRIDOR, TH… (more)