“At Close Range” (1986) dir. James Foley

Another sadly neglected/forgotten film from the 1980s, “At Close Range” is based on the true story of the Pennsylvania crime family led by Bruce Johnston, Sr. Christopher Walken is in his scariest role ever as the crime boss Brad Whitewood, Sr., a role turned down by Robert DeNiro because he thought it was “too dark” (which is really saying something). Walken’s character may be one of the most evil I’ve ever seen in a film … a cold and ruthless mammal (I can’t bring myself to call him a man, let alone human) who has absolutely no soul. Sean Penn plays his son Brad Jr., a teenager going nowhere who becomes part of his father’s gang. Penn’s character later finds himself in way too deep and learns way too fast that his father’s “love” is expressed solely for the purpose of disarming someone and keeping them under their control. The acting by all parties (especially Walken, Penn, and Mary Stuart Masterson as Penn’s girlfriend) is outstanding. With the possible exception of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” this is director Foley’s finest film. A great film, but terribly disturbing and sad.

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