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In late 30s America, young trucker Johnny Kovak (Sylvester Stallone) leads an uprising against his bosses after the local union rep is assassinated in a management-manipulated brawl. However, as the collective power of the truck workers grows over the next two decades, so does the influence of the mob, corrupting Kovak's ideals.
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The period feel (it starts in the 30's and moves through to the 60's) is well captured. The riot and strike breaking scenes are particularly well done and the verbal clash between Stallone's union leader and Rod Steiger's Senator are highlights of the movie.
So why only 3 stars ? Because the print used here is a cut down version ! A key sequence towards the end where the mob bosses plan to eliminate Stallone or Steiger (it is never clear which until the end of the movie) is missing. This scene is always missing from TV prints also, but I expected it to be included in the DVD version.
Even more unforgiveable the opening (which IS shown when the film has played on tv) is also cut out.I am deeply aggrieved at paying out for a version which is chopped and not even as complete as one taped from TV.
Directed by Norman Jewison from a Joe Eszterhas script with cinematography by Lazlo Kovacs, it's an admirably ambitious film. Charting the union from its days as hungry men with no rights to fat men by the pool with young girls who aren't their wives as the small group of bullied workers in the 30s grows into the biggest bully on the block by the 60s when Stallone comes up against Rod Steiger's racket busting senator, it's strangely lacking in punch or impact. There are good scenes and some inspired casting - not least Kevin Conway in the kind of role Brian Donlevy would have played in the 30s and 40s - but it often feels flat and underdeveloped. Jewison manages to keep Steiger and Peter Boyle's performances in check, but he's less successful with Stallone. Still in the period when he wanted to be the next Brando rather than the first Arnie, the star does some good work but loses some of his potentially best moments by incoherent mumbling or inaudible whispering under his breath that makes stretches of dialogue incomprehensible without subtitles. Still, it's nice to see De Mille regular Henry Wilcoxen as a blithely patronisingly patrician boss and Bill Conti's sweepingly epic score is impressive even if some of the music editing does it no favors.
On the subject of edits, the US DVD is the uncut 145-minute version - avoid the European DVDs, which are the cut 131-minute international version.
Better still is Kino Lorber's region A-locked Blu-ray release, which not only offers the 145-minute version in a decent transfer (though the title sequence is surprisingly poor quality) but includes an excellent 18-minute featurette The Fight for F.I.S.T. which features new and pleasingly frank interviews with Jewison and Eszterhas that pull no punches when it comes to the problems the star caused. Jewison had wanted to make a film about Jimmy Hoffa, but the only studio that was interested, United Artists, would only make it with Stallone in the lead. But still in the first flush of success after Rocky's huge box-office, Stallone not only wanted to rewrite the film - at one point contentiously claiming he had written the very personal script Eszterhas had been working on for a year before the star was involved - but he didn't want his character to be responsible for his best friend's death or to die at the end because he was too much of a folk hero. While Stallone's contributions to the script were largely limited to the romantic subplot, it was only after the film opened to terrible reviews and bad business that he graciously acknowledged that Eszterhas wrote the majority of the film and that it was wrong of him to try to `steal' his credit, something the writer thought was a generous gesture until Jewison told him that Stallone was washing his hands of the film and far from giving him all the credit was trying to shift all the blame! Despite some reservations about the compromises that were made and honesty about its terrible reception, neither director nor star do the same, offering a nicely unblinkered insight into the making of the film that's well worth a look. The only other extra is the film's theatrical trailer, which follows the template of The Godfather's trailer by being made up entirely of stills from the film, though sadly it's extremely badly transferred with a lot of juddering that ruins the effect.
Picture is 1080/50i MPEG - 4 AVC, Sound Dolby Stereo, no special features just subtitles.
I must say this is the best picture i have seen from this film and it's worth the purchase, it plays on UK players as stated on the back as region B.
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