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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
At Close Range
Directed by James Foley
MGM Home Entertainment 1986 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Brad Jr. lives with his stepbrother Tommy, his mother, and his maternal grandmother in a sleepy Pennsylvania town. He is restless and looking for something to put an edge on his life. Then his long-gone father, Brad Sr. shows up with a sneaky smile, a wad of cash, and a flashy car.
After moving in with Brad, Sr., the young man realizes that he's the head of a ragtag band of thieves who steal tractors, cars, guns, and anything else they can get their hands on. Trying to win his father's respect, Brad Jr. forms his own gang and pulls off a heist. He also falls in love with Terry, a pretty farm girl.
But Brad's excitement over his new life of adventure ends when he witnesses the murder of an informer by one of his father's men. The amoral Brad Sr. sees it all as part of the game; his son wants out. With the FBI closing in, his father begins a killing spree which includes the execution of his stepson and two other members of Brad Jr.'s gang.
At Close Range is a grim and claustrophobic film inspired by a series of family murders in Pennsylvania during 1978. Christopher Walken stars as the cocky, calculating, and cold-blooded Brad Sr., a man who beats and rapes his son's girlfriend just to demonstrate his power. Sean Penn gives a passionate and inspiring performance as Brad Jr., a heroic young man who in the process of taking a stand against his father barely escapes turning into a replica of him.
Despite director James Foley's (Reckless) penchant for stressing cinematic style over thematic substance, At Close Range is a riveting film about murder, the father-son relationship gone bad, and the high cost of rejecting the view that might makes right.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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