Tag Archives: Jon Voight

Lookin’ to Get Out (1982)

looking1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hiding out in Vegas.

Alex (Jon Voight) is a high stakes gambler in debt for $10,000. Joey and Harry (Allen Keller, Jude Farese) work with the syndicate and when they come around to collect their debt from Alex he escapes out of the city with his pal Jerry Feldmen (Burt Young) where they go to Las Vegas in hopes of recouping the money by playing blackjack. Alex employs the services of Smitty (Bert Remsen), an expert card counter, to help him at the dealer table, but just as he and Jerry think they’ve got their situation solved Joey and Harry reappear and chase the two through the hotel demanding that the debt be repaid immediately.

The script was written by Al Schwartz who based it on some of his own life experiences as he struggled to make it in the entertainment world. While working as the business manager to singer/songwriter Chip Taylor he showed him the script to get his opinion and Chip suggested that Al send it to Jon Voight, Chip’s brother, and when Jon read it he purportedly ‘fell in love with it’ within the first 30 pages. The story is a bit different as the situations itself aren’t necessarily funny, but instead it relies on the desperate nature of the characters and the way they interact with each other for its humor.

It was filmed at the MGM Grand Hotel, which at 6,852 rooms is the largest single hotel in the United States and third largest in the world. The ambience of the place is well captured and reminded me of the atmosphere of a lot of casinos I’ve stayed at where everyone is looking to ‘get lucky’ while in the process living very much on the edge. Having the plot that place over only a two-day period nicely reflects how gamblers live for the moment without any concern for either the past or future. It’s all just about the risk and excitement of beating the odds, which on that level, the film captures admirably well.

The acting helps, particularly from Voight who gives a souped-up rendition of his more famous Joe Buck character from Midnight Cowboy, playing a clueless schmuck who believes he can con his way out of anything and it’s also great seeing him share a scene with his real-life daughter Angelina Jolie, who at age 4 makes her film debut, appearing briefly as Alex’s daughter near the end and to date has been the only project that the two have done together. Young is also quite good as his more sensible friend and to an extent that he becomes the person the audience connects with. Remsen has a few key moments too playing a character that initially seems insignificant to the story, but slowly begins to have a much more meaningful presence by the end. As a buddy formula it works, but throwing in Ann-Margaret as Alex’s former girlfriend who comes back into his life, doesn’t gel and she should’ve been left out.

The foot chase where Alex and Jerry try to outrun Joey and Harry by dashing throughout the hotel is the film’s single best moment and I was impressed with how unlike other movie chases scenes there were no jump cuts and you can visually follow the action even as it shifts between different rooms. The other segments though get overly drawn-out. While his trademark was a slower, more subtle pace, which worked in his previous movies, director Hal Ashby would’ve been wise to have paired this one down. The plot isn’t intricate enough to justify the long runtime and a 90-minute version would’ve been ideal. The original theatrical cut was 105 minutes, which had issues too, but the longer director’s edition isn’t perfect either and in this instance less definitely would’ve been more.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 8, 1982

Runtime: 2 Hours (Director’s Cut)

Rated R

Director: Hal Ashby

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The Revolutionary (1970)

the revolutionary 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: He fights against capitalism.

Jon Voight plays a college student involved in a student protest group called The Radical Committee. They push for social change particularly with a more communist/socialist style of government, which he becomes fonder of after working with Despard (Robert Duvall) a nearby factory worker who’s trying to start a union up at his plant. After being suspended from the school for his radical views he becomes frustrated at seeing how his work and actions seem to have very little influence or effect. He then meets up with Leonard (Seymour Cassel) who is a more seasoned radical and not shy about using violent or unethical methods to make his point and pressures Voight to start doing the same.

On the whole despite its slow pace this is a slickly produced intriguing character study. I enjoyed the grainy pictures of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution shown over the opening credits, but I didn’t like the film’s choice of on-location shooting. Supposedly it takes place in a small American city, but it doesn’t resemble one since it was filmed in London, which gives everything from the old buildings to roadways and sidewalks a European look that you never see in any American town or city. There is also no explanation initially about what the students are protesting against or why they are at odds with the school, which makes the storyline seem generic and hard to get into at first.

I loved Voight’s character as it is similar to his Joe Buck one in Midnight Cowboy with all of the social awkwardness, but fortunately he is not as painfully dumb. It is interesting to see how such a highly intellectual man with strong opinions and ideals can still at times be quite timid. I was looking forward to seeing the character go through a transition and was disappointed that it took so long to get there.  To me the ending should’ve been the beginning and the fact that it isn’t hurts the film’s overall impact. I was also confused as to why the Jennifer Salt character, who plays a young lady from an affluent family, would find Voight so appealing, or why she wanted to continue to go out with him, which to me demanded more of an explanation.

The scene in which a mob gets attacked by some riot police is photographed in a way that makes it intense and startling and could’ve been extended even more. The ending is nerve wracking and great example of how complete silence without any music can sometimes create far more tension. Unfortunately the ambiguous resolution is a disappointment and after such a long and deliberately slow build-up comes off almost like a cop-out.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 15, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Williams

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Instant Video