A teenage farm boy looking for excitement finds himself on a collision course with his smooth-talking gang leader father in this "powerfully disturbing (Newsweek) tale based on the story of real-life killer Bruce Johnston.... more » OscarĀ(r) winner* Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking) and OscarĀ(r) winner** Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction) star in this "hot, horrifying saga of an American criminal family" (Los Angeles Times)! Juvenile delinquent Brad Whitewood, Jr. (Penn) knows about petty theft, but he wants big moneyenough to blow the lid off his boring life, enough to get out of town and to find his ol' man (Walken). He wants to be like his dad, a big-time thief, who knows "the business." Seductive and sinister, Brad's father is full of toxic wisdom that makes his illicit life appear eerily sexy. But when Brad witnesses his father deliberately killing someone, he realizes he may not only be in over his head he may also lose it for good. *2003: Actor, Mystic River **1978: Supporting Actor, The Deer Hunter« less
"The film purports to be based on true events. The saga of the Johnston gang, a "family" of burglars based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and reigned circa 1980 and then unfolded into murder happened while I was in high school. The story got big play in the Philadelphia region and some national coverage. Oddly enough this movie was filmed in Tennessee. Also noteworthy is that when this film was released in 1986 it didn't even get a theatrical run in Philly. I had to wait until it was released later that year on home video before I saw it. Bear in mind that at the time Sean Penn was not the esteemed Academy award winning actor he is now but was better known as Madonna's husband. Christopher Walken, despite the Oscar he won for "The Deer Hunter", was a marketing challenge for Hollywood. As for the film itself, it perfectly captures the essence of the events and the place it occurred. I worked near Lancaster County around that time and my late brother-in-law was from the area and came to Philly because the mills had closed there. You can imagine if you were a young person at that time the desolation you might feel and Penn perfectly captures that restlessness. You can also imagine how someone like him would be drawn to a charismatic, albeit evil, father figure as assayed here by Walken. Walken's Brad Sr. is one of his great portrayals in an impressive career. With little histrionics or tics Walken embodies evil incarnate. There is also an excellent supporting cast here with Mary Stuart Masterson as Penn's innocent girlfriend, Chris Penn and Crispin Glover as Penn's buddies, and Tracey Walter as Walken's brother as standouts. This is most definitely one of the better and more underrated films of the eighties. Credit should also go to director James Foley and scriptwriter Nicholas Kazan for not only delivering a powerhouse film but for also getting it right."
A tug-of-war between father and son in a small town with no
Jessica Lux | Rosamond, CA | 02/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At Close Range, which is based on a true-crime story from the 1980's, centers on the relationship between Brad Jr. (Sean Penn) and Brad Sr. (Christopher Walken). The younger Brad has a mess of a life, has no direction, and lives with his mom and a boyfriend who resents her pot-smoking grown children. Along with his brother Tommy (played by Penn's real-life brother, Chris Penn), Brad Jr. turns to his dad as a father-figure for an intro to the family business of small-time crime. Tensions run high has Brad Jr. is forced to faced the true demon his father is, and Brad Sr. has no qualms about hurting or murdering anyone, including Tommy (the bastard son) and his own son's girlfriend.
The is a gritty movie with great questions about family ties and what to do with your life when you have no real options. Most of the cast was relatively unknown at the time, so check out actors like Kiefer Sutherland, Crispin Glover, and Mary Stuart Masterson at the beginning of the careers. "
Is this the Family Gun, Dad?
Greg Nguyen | Miami, FL United States | 07/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the best films of the 1980's, At Close Range tells the true story of the Johnston Family gang (changed here to Whitewood) which terrorized Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania in the 1970s by stealing tractor parts and generally being hoods. While the story may sound not too compelling, this film gets a huge boost from some great ensemble acting. This is the movie that got me over my aversion to Sean Penn and Christopher Walken delivers one of the most believably evil people in movies. I grew up in the town this all took place in and Bruce Johnston (Christopher Walken=Brad Whitewood) lived next door to my Uncle. And my Uncle said that Walken nailed this guy's persona. Scary Thought. What saves At Close Range from being just another crime movie is the flair that James Foley brings to the direction. It's often gorgeous, thank to Juan Ruiz Anchia's brilliant cinematography and in no small part to Patrick Leonard's haunting score, keyed to the melody of Live to Tell. How come there was never a soundtrack? Do yourself a favor, check it out and be reminded that evil does exist and in forms more insidious and banal than serial killers and possessed little girls."
Penn and Walken Terrific Together
carol irvin | United States | 01/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film shows Sean Penn as a young man who is saddled with a father mired in low level living and constant crime. The criminal father is played by Walken but not as you've seen him in the movies before. Usually Walken plays top crime figures in major US cities. I've gotten very tired of seeing him in that role, in fact. However, here he is a hick and a criminal. His crimes are anything and everything that will get him through the night. The fascinating part is that Walken's character is more horrific than a mafia crime boss because he has no rules or limits whatsoever in his narrow, primitive world. He will harm anyone or anything, including kith or kin, who gets in his way. At times Walken seems like an ordinary bloke you'd see at your neighborhood tavern yet, in others, he is quietly chilling. Penn, as his son, is caught in a number of different directions as he's coming of age. Penn's character is sufficiently young and unformed and he could still turn out good or bad as an adult. It could go either way. However, what catalyzes him into growing up even faster is that his father undertakes his most vicious acts yet, acts that cry out for justice. Just to show you how young Penn was in this movie, he was then married to Madonna and she sings the big song on the movie soundtrack! The scene I can never forget is the one where Walken puts his finger up to his mouth, signalling "quiet," in almost a playful fashion. He has just committed his most atrocious crime to date and that is how laid back he is about it."
"Daddy, Daddy....Give me something"
Nicholas Rog | Chicago, IL | 07/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""AT Close Range" is without question, one of the finest movies that the 80s produced.
Sean Penn plays a young criminal, who runs into his big-time criminal father(Christopher Walken) and joins Walkens' band of misfits. Along the way, Penn realizes what a terrible person his father is and tries to leave the gang. Walken is not liking that idea and has a different plan for Penn, one which involves his lovely girlfriend, played by Mary Stuart Masterson.
Chris Penn is also in this movie and plays Sean Penn's younger brother(that must have been diffcult for him).
This movie is sooooo great, because of Walken. His performance is undeniably creepy and overly effective. His character is drunk and doped-up for the entire movie and is always hiding his "evil" side. Walken is so capable of pulling this off, that it is impossible for me to even consider who else would have played this role had he not.
This movie is a little slow-moving, but that is simply to set the depressing, un-eventful daily life that takes place in this farm town this movie is set in. It almost explains why Penn gets involved with his father's crew---shear boredom.
There is some humor in ths film, most of which is provided by a drunk Walken character, stumbling and rambling about life. The best line is when Penn tells Walken that he no longer wants to work with him and Walken; in a typical Walken voice, utters "Where ya gonna go...what'd ya gonna do....Food, clothes, pretty girl in your lap...you'll be crawling back to me; Daddy, Daddy, give me something"..I can rewind and watch that scene for hours.
This is truely a fantastic film and I highly recommend this one to anyone. Not suitable for young children as there is a lot of violence and some killing. EVeryone else, I will be VERY surprised if this movie is not enoyed by all!!