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At Close Range

1 rating: 3.0
A movie

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Director: James Foley
Genre: Drama
Release Date: April 1, 1986
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about At Close Range

At Close Range 1986

  • Mar 28, 2005
  • by
Pros: Walken & Penn

Cons: a little grainy

The Bottom Line: ____________

If your family tree only has one branch ….. You might be a redneck. And rednecks is just what this movie is slam-jack about. Spittin’ mean spirited daddies, kiddies runin' amok, small town hoods and brutality. Got it all.

On top of that, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Christopher Walken with color in his face. An actual TAN, not that ‘I look like I’m staring in the Night of the Living Dead’ sequel’ pasty white face he normally has.

This is what I know
Brad Whitewood, Jr. is the town bad boy. Can’t get along in school, is a bit out of control. A good looking kid, he catches the eye of Terry, a girl a bit above his stature. Can’t help love though, love don’t know anything about checkbooks and IRA’s. Brad lives in a broke down shack with his mother, grandmother and younger brother, Tommy. They run in a pack with other bad boys, his best friend is Tim.

Brad has a love of cars and spends his spare time working on them. He has a beat up truck that he barely keeps running, but it’s his baby. A little money from dear old dad would help this family out but dad don’t seem to want to help out any.

Doesn’t seem rightly fair, dad is well-to-do, by the standards of this small town. In fact, he is considered quite well-to-do. How he comes about his buckos is another story entirely. Seems he has a bit of sticky fingers.

Good old Brad, Sr. drops in one day and slips Jr. a few hundred dollars to give to mommy. Jr. wants to start a relationship with daddy but daddy really isn’t all that about it. In fact, daddy has a new family and his new wifey, Mary Sue, doesn’t really trust Brad, Jr.

Things finally come to a head when Brad, Jr. says he’ll prove himself to daddy dear, and commits a crime to show him. Daddy couldn’t be prouder and takes him under his wing, sort of a tutelage. Daddy’s partner, Tony, doesn’t like this intrusion and puts forth some demands of his own.

Things go to hell quickly and the ending will simply be a surprise.

At Close Range was written by Nicholas Kazan & Elliott Lewitt, directed by James Foley. The cast is an outstanding selection and man, they are younger than my shoes.

Sean Penn was Brad Whitewood, Jr. He ruled this part. He was 26 years old when this movie came out, his 10th movie. You simply believed he wasn’t anything but a teenager in this release. He was hard, edgy, and soft all at once. Loved him in this role.

Chris Penn, Sean’s brother, played his brother Tommy. Great portrayal as the wanna be like my big brother part.

Mary Stuart Masterson was the delicate Terry.

David Strathairn played Tony Pine, Brad Sr.’s side kick. Not someone you want angry at you, great portrayal.

Good old Candy Clark was the needy wife of Brad Sr., Mary Sue.

Best friend, Tim, was played by Kiefer Sutherland in this his 4th movie. In fact, I didn’t recognize him until the fateful end.

Finally, Brad Sr., Mr. Christopher Walken. Ah, Walken, what can you say about him? He is the most evil person I’ve ever seen when he wants to be and he definitely wants to be in this movie. I was amazed at his performance, he and Sean absolutely made this movie. Outstanding!

Overall impression and a bit of trivia
This was definitely a raw movie. Full of emotion and nasty power. The lead performers gave it all in this release, very powerful. I could even live with the ending, it just seemed fitting.

The woman that played the part of Sean & Chris Penn’s grandmother in the movie, Eileen Ryan, is actually their real life mother. The movie was based on the crimes of Norman Johnston, Sr., who lived in Chester County, Penn. It’s scary to think real life people like that existed.

Awards & Nominations
The movie won the ASCAP Most Performed Songs for Madonna for “Live to Tell” and the BMI Most Performed Song from a Film for Patrick Leonard for “Live to Tell”.

James Foley was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival and Risa Garcia & Billy Hopkins were nominated for Best Casting from Casting Society of America. They should have nailed that one.

Overall I was very impressed with the movie. Good job



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