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Atlantic City

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Atlantic City

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon
Director: Louis Malle
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: April 1981
Genres: Classic, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Kate Reid, Michel Piccoli, Hollis McLaren, Robert Joy, Al Waxman, Wallace Shawn

Review by Brian Koller
2 stars out of 4

"Atlantic City" is a character study that falls short of expectations. While the characters are interesting, their actions are not always credible. The film's message is unclear as well.

Sally (Susan Sarandon) is training to become a casino dealer, and dreams of escaping her dreary routine to live a cultured life, perhaps in Paris. Lou (Burt Lancaster) is an aging small-time hood, financially dependent upon a miserly and abusive (by choice) elderly woman (Kate Reid). Unknown to Sarandon, Lancaster is in love with her.

Lancaster still has ambitions of becoming a big-shot. He stumbles upon a financial windfall (a large amount of cocaine, and a customer who badly wants it). He promptly changes his lifestyle, living for the moment and playing sugar daddy to Sarandon. Sarandon gladly goes along for the ride, using Lancaster for all he can give her.

There are some spoilers in the remainder of the

"Atlantic City" has some problems with the actions of the main characters. We are to believe that Sarandon poses topless at length in front of an unshuttered window every night, and that Lancaster is able to peep at her unseen, every night.

Sarandan's husband Dave (Robert Joy) is the lowest form of street-life vermin. Why would she have married him? Her stated reason is to escape Saskatchewan, but there are better ways of doing that. Why would she let him move in with her again?

Joy cannot sell his stolen cocaine, because he looks like the weasel he is. But he could find another customer, or clean up his act, rather than putting complete trust in stranger Lancaster, who could steal the cocaine or the money, or report him to police.

Joy is brutally murdered by hoods. I don't have problems with the murder, but the hoods make no effort to get Joy to reveal where the cocaine and/or money is, a subject that they would soon be fixated with.

Lancaster tells the hoods that he has the cocaine and money, ostensibly to protect Sarandon and promote himself as a big-shot, but he has to have known the negative consequences of this action. He is also fond of telling everyone that he has just killed two gangsters, which does not seem credible even given his need for recognition.

After Lancaster shoots one of the hoods, the other hood just stands there, waiting to be shot as well.

Reid is apparently bedridden throughout the film, but is up and walking without problems in the final scene.

"Atlantic City" was shot on location in New Jersey and has a largely American cast, but is a Canadian production.

The consensus on "Atlantic City" is that it is an outstanding character study. Since my opinion is definitely in the minority, there is a good chance that I have not interpreted the film correctly.

Copyright 1999 Brian Koller

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