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  Joe Where You Goin' With That Gun in Your Hand?
Year: 1970
Director: John G. Avildsen
Stars: Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick, Audrey Caire, Susan Sarandon, K. Callan, Patrick McDermott
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Melissa (Susan Sarandon) lives with her drug dealing, junkie boyfriend. One day, he gives her a pill which sends her into an overdose, and she is admitted into hospital, where her parents come to the rescue. Her father, Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick), returns to Melissa's apartment to collect her things, but is interrupted by her boyfriend - a fight ensues, leaving the boyfriend dead and Compton shattered - until he meets Joe Curran (Peter Boyle) in a bar...

After Easy Rider came out, Joe was celebrated in some quarters as the next great film to put the divisions in contemporary America under the microscope, but in truth it comes across as a story for those viewers who thought Easy Rider had a happy ending. Written by Norman Wexler, it concentrates on the contempt the older generation had for the younger, hippy generation, with blue collar Joe teaming up with white collar Compton in a kind of mutual appreciation society.

When Compton accidentally lets it slip that he has killed a drug dealer, Joe isn't sure whether to believe him until he sees the evening news. Right away he contacts Compton at his office, not to blackmail him but to convey his admiration. Any guilt Compton feels is assuaged by Joe's respect, even though, as we see in his first scene, Joe is a racist bigot: in fact, Compton finds himself coming around to his way of thinking. Cue scenes of male bonding, including an uncomfortable-for-the-wives dinner party where Joe shows off his "well-balanced" gun collection.

The two men are shown to be unpleasant, but the young people are not shown to be any better - the film doesn't sympathise with anyone. The hippies we see are all obsessed with getting high and getting laid, which leads to a silly sequence where Joe and Compton go looking for Melissa (who has gone on the run), and end up at an "orgy". With the copious nudity, far out music and drug taking, the film looks more and more like an explotation movie rather than a message movie.

What you take away from the film is Boyle's excellent performance of a hate-filled man whose hate is all that defines him. If he didn't have his racist, anti-gay, anti-drugs, far right patriotism to nurture, he would be empty inside. One nice bit has him noticing, with disgust, a poster in a boutique, which depicts then-President Nixon with the caption, "Would You Buy A Used Car From This Man?" But the film doesn't take sides, and the bleak twist at the end doesn't have much impact when the story has become so over the top. Music By Bobby Scott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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