JAMES FOLEY’S AT CLOSE RANGE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Few thrillers from the mid-80’s are as underrated as At Close Range, which features two blistering performances from Christopher Walken and Sean Penn as a father/son unit repeatedly tested via a life of crime, and a final act of nearly unbearable tension and intensity. Written with emotional heft by Nicholas Kazan (Fallen, Reversal of Fortune) and directed with gritty integrity by James Foley (After Dark My Sweet, The Corruptor), Orion Pictures distributed this severely low profile gem in April of ’86, and while critics embraced it, the film failed to find a theatrical audience. But over the years, and as the two main stars continued to gain in popularity, Foley’s red-hot drama has become a major cult classic, with the supporting cast, including Mary Stuart Masterson, Chris Penn, David Strathairn, Candy Clark, Crispin Glover, Eileen Ryan (the real life mother of the Penn brothers), and Kiefer Sutherland, adding lots of colorful background to this already volatile mix of crime, violence and family dynamics. Juan Ruiz Anchia’s star cinematography painted a bleak portrait of lived-in hostility, while Howard E. Smith’s exacting editing left no fat to pick off of the bones of the grim narrative. At Close Range was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, and is currently available on DVD as a two-fer with the superb cop film Colors, and also on Blu-ray.

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