Night of the Juggler (1980)

night of the juggler 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: A father’s relentless search.

Sean Boyd (James Brolin) is a divorced man and retired cop now working as a truck driver and raising his twelve-year-old daughter Kathy (played by Abby Bluestone who now works as a talent agent) in the not-so-nice section of New York City. Gus Soltic (Cliff Gorman) lives in a rundown building slated for destruction and kidnaps Kathy mistakenly thinking she is the daughter of a rich man who can pay him a high ransom. Instead he now must contend with Sean who will stop at nothing to get her back and stalks Gus with a relentless determination to find her.

The film is based on the William P. McGivern novel who was a noted mystery writer who brought an extra degree of realism to his stories. Director Robert Butler nicely keys in on this by not having a loud, pounding music score and instead relying on the natural ambience to create the tension. The film has an incredible amount of action that almost seems non-stop. The car chase that goes through park pathways and even crowded city sidewalks is amazing. The climatic foot chase in the catacombs of the underground city tunnels is atmospheric as is the foot chase through abandoned properties where Sean not only pursues Gus, but must also fight off a Hispanic street gang that are right on his heels. The scene where Dan Hedaya seemingly destroys every display window in the city with his automatic rifle aimed at Sean’s head is both effective and amusing.

Despite its strong gritty nature the film does manage to have a few amusing scenes including Sean stealing a street preacher’s car with the preacher still in it as he pursues Gus.  I also liked the scene where Lieutenant Tonelli (Richard S. Catellano) is enjoying a dish of yogurt until the vendor tells him how it gets made. Unfortunately there are a few moments that end up being funny in an unintentional way including Sean’s intense confrontation with strippers (played by famous 70’s/80’s porn stars Serena and Sharon Mitchell) while inside an adult peep show.

Brolin physically looks perfect for the role especially with his black beard and mustache that gives him a Charles Manson-like quality, but overall he is a bit sterile. Gorman is effective as the psycho and even has a few moments of unexpected tenderness. Castellano comes off best as the tubby, but stoic detective.

The film has its share of flaws including having Gus grab the girl in broad daylight in the middle of a park with dozens of other people around, but no one except for her father does anything to try and stop him. I realize that the city was still under the stigma at the time of the Kitty Genovese case in which a woman was raped and murdered and many witnesses either saw or heard it and did nothing to help, but this scene  is still a bit unrealistic. Also, Gus kidnaps the wrong girl because both girls were wearing blue overalls, but the chances of two pre-teen girls living in a cosmopolitan city wearing overalls especially when one of them is from a rich and snooty area seems slim-to-none.

Overall despite all the action the film still comes off as jarring and jumbled and strangely uninvolving. The incessant focus of showing New York as bleak and apocalyptic becomes one-dimensional. The story itself is run-of-the-mill and forgettable.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 6, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Butler

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

One response to “Night of the Juggler (1980)

  1. Pingback: Up the Creek (1984) | Scopophilia

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