In this grim little movie, Dustin Hoffman is featured as Max Dembo, an ex-con who finds that going straight is the most difficult job in the world. The early scenes of the film depicting his release from prison graphically convey his lostness and loneliness. His best friend's wife tells him to stay away from her husband. His parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) throws him back in prison on empty drug charges when he realizes he can't run Max's life. Despite the support of a newfound girlfriend (Theresa Russell), Dembo can't handle the tedious responsibility of the straight world. He returns to crime, enlisting the aid of another thief (Harry Dean Stanton).

Straight Time packs a punch — thanks mainly to the intense and well-modulated performance by Dustin Hoffman. It introduces us to the frustrations and anger of being labeled an ex-con and then presents us with the visceral roots of Dembo's criminal urges. The film is somewhat hobbled by an inconclusive delineation of Max's brief love affair and a wobbly ending. However, by keeping its sights low, Straight Time succeeds on its own terms.