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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
Straight Time [DVD]
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£12.97+ £1.26 shipping

I recently bought 'Straight Time' and Ed Bunker's book 'No beast so fierce', on which it's based. Hoffman had bought the film rights whilst Bunker was still banged up. After his release Bunker advised on the screenplay and in some respects improved the dramatic effects of the novel. All agree that Bunker's lived experience of a life of serious crime force reality onto every page of his book and create a hard hitting film drawing a superb performance from Hoffman and caste. It portrays the criminal's viewpoint without apology. Bunker has since become a serious writer and actor (Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs). His advice to Michael Mann on 'Heat' is evident all through the book. This film should have acquired cult status already. Buy it now.
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on 30 March 2016
If you love classic seventies movies this is an underrated gem. Similar in flavour to Serpico & Dog day afternoon in its atmosphere. Hoffman brilliant as ever. Loved it!
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on 3 December 2017
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on 22 June 2017
Great Film
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on 27 September 2016
Fab film
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on 24 June 2017
Good classic movie!
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on 29 April 2017
Good price and swift delivery. One of D Hoffman's best performances on film.
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on 29 December 2015
My dad enjoyed the film as a great Dustin Hoffman fan
Many thanks
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on 5 November 2016
very good
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on 12 January 2010
Straight Time (1978) is not as well known as it ought to be. Here in England it is seldom shown on terrestrial television and, as of writing this, is still awaiting a DVD release. Thankfully it is still possible to purchase a VHS copy of this gem of a film.

Based on the excellent semi-autobiographical novel No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker, Straight Time follows Max Dembo (played by Dustin Hoffman) when he is released on parole from San Quentin prison after serving six years for armed robbery.

The first half of the film is a drama in which Dembo attempts to go straight. He rents a scummy one-room apartment that is probably no bigger than the prison cell he's just vacated, he gets a low-paid job in a can factory, and strikes up a relationship with an attractive secretary. However, despite his best efforts, his plans to be a law-abiding citizen are thwarted by a junkie friend and a supercilious parole officer.

Without wanting to give away the plot, the second half is a crime thriller that sees Dembo submerge himself back into the Los Angeles criminal underworld and revert to his former life as an armed robber. We see a different, much darker, side to his personality as he stamps on anyone who dares to get in his way. We realise there wont be a happy ending to this, and people are going to get hurt along the way.

The filmmakers were clearly aiming to make Straight Time as realistic and unglamorous as possible. In fact some of the scenes are so realistic it's almost like watching a documentary - such as the scene where Max has dinner with ex-con Willy Darin and his family, and the scene when Max is taking back to jail for parole violation. There are two electrifying robbery scenes (one in a bank and the other in a jewellery store) that convey the excitement and sense of danger experienced by armed robbers when doing a job. In fact, the jewellery store robbery must rank as one of the most realistic ever committed to film.

What also makes this film so impressive is the quality of the acting, with many of the cast giving the performance of a lifetime.

Dustin Hoffman is in every scene and is superb. I love the way he is able to express the frustration of his predicament with a simple forced smile or narrowing of the eyes. This is his greatest performance in a career full of great performances. 100% believable and very powerful. He ought to have been Oscar nominated for this role.

Harry Dean Stanton is excellent as Jerry Schue the former convict who has gone straight yet still yearns for the adrenaline rush of committing robberies. Jerry isn't an armed robber because he needs the money (he is obviously comfortably well off) rather he does it purely for the excitement. Some might say Stanton steals the film - and it would be hard to argue with them. Although he plays a violent criminal, he's so likable I guarantee you'll be rooting for him, and will care what happens to him.

Max's girlfriend Jenny Mercer is played by 20-year-old former model Theresa Russell in only her second film. Jenny is naïve, vulnerable and turned on by the excitement of Dembo's criminal life. I think the film-makers attempted to tone down her sex appeal - she wears little make-up, keeps her hair tied back, wears flared trousers and beige tops - yet she still looks smoulderingly beautiful. And if you're a red-blooded male like me you'll probably find yourself falling in love with her. Jenny Mercer joins the list of remarkably understanding girlfriends who only seem to exist in the world of films (see also Jenny Agutter in American Werewolf In London).

M. Emmet Walsh is perfectly cast as overweight sweaty parole officer Earl Frank. Just watch his body language during his first meeting with Max, he clearly revels in the power he holds over the convicts in his charge. Dembo's revenge on Earl on the L.A freeway is one of those joyous moments film fans live for. Walsh would play a similar character a couple of years later in Blade Runner.

The other supporting roles are top notch too. Gary Busey gives one of his best performances outside The Buddy Holly Story. There's an early role for Kathy Bates before she piled on the pounds. And Edward Bunker himself has a cameo (he also had a small role as Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs).

Straight Time stands up well to repeated viewings (I've watched it more than ten times) and you notice little details that you may have missed first time around, like when Max asks for a hot dog and forgets to pay for it because he's spent so long in prison.

This is a violent crime film and therefore will not appeal to everyone. Yet I've still awarded five stars on the grounds that it is such a well-written, well-made and well-acted film and it is impossible to see any way in which it could have been improved.

I place Straight Time in my top five favourite films. My VHS copy has been played so many times the tape is becoming warped and in much need of replacing. Warner Brothers really need to pull their fingers out and give this crime classic a UK DVD and Blu-ray release very soon.
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