Harvey Keitel plays a piano virtuoso with a twisted second job - he's the muscle man who 'collects' on his mob father's debts. Of course, this creates an internal struggle between the artist's commitments to his father and... more » his love of music.« less
"In all my years of movie viewing, there have been only two movies that I completely hated upon my first viewing: James Toback's FINGERS and David Lynch's BLUE VELVET. To me, the former was a 90-minute exercise in incompetence, with the director wallowing in material unfit for a sewer. The latter was indescribable - an eclectic assortment of unrelated images sewn together by momentary fits of brutal and sexual savagery. I never would have thought that my utter lack of understanding in film as a visual language would soon come to pass, and ultimately permit me to enjoy further viewings of these films which have become two of my all-time favorites. FINGERS is one of the best movies you've more than likely never heard of. Though I found it to be initially revolting, I gave the film another chance and boy am I glad I did. Watching the film a second time revealed one of the most audacious and best films made in the 1970's. Harvey Keitel gives what to me is his best film performance. As Jimmy Angelleli (an Angel in Hell - nice symbolism!), he's an aspiring concert pianist moonlighting as a collector for his loan shark father, played wonderfully by the late Michael V. Gazzo. The predominantly New York City cast is made up primarily of great character actors from THE GODFATHER films, in particular Dominic Chianese (finally getting recognition on THE SOPRANOS) and Lenny Montana. Tony Sirico, who plays Pauly Walnuts on THE SOPRANOS, is terrific as a gangster who has a nasty scuffle in a stairwell with Keitel. Danny Aiello and Ed Marinaro are great as Sirico's henchmen, and Tanya Roberts(!) plays Sirico's girlfriend. Marian Seldes is excellent in her small role as Keitel's mother. Tom Signorelli is great as a convict sharing a cell with Keitel. Jim Brown rounds out the cast as Dreems, and Tisa Farrow plays his fey girlfriend. Be warned, however - FINGERS is not for everyone. It is at times a brutal and depressing drama. However, you should give it a chance if you like MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER, as these are the films that come to mind while watching FINGERS. The film was shot by cinematographer Michael Chapman, a master of some great 1970's films like THE LAST DETAIL, TAXI DRIVER, and RAGING BULL. His camera mastery is brilliant here. This, like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, is a highly visceral New York movie. James Toback deserves kudos for making an uncompromising film. For a directorial debut, it's a stunning achievement, and it's the sort of film that would never get made today. Superb."
Comparable to MEAN STREETS
Ian Muldoon | Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia | 02/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The principal difference between MEAN STREETS and FINGERS is that the focus in FINGERS is exclusively on the character played by Mr Keitel and his relationship with his father (mainly) and his mother, and his search for a partner who will give expression to his sexual longings. The maintenance of tone throughout the film by Mr Toback is superb. He also does not rush and cross cut scenes - he allows the inherent momentum of the scene to develop at the pace of the characters conversation, reactions and interactions. The location shooting is vivid and relevant. The sex and violence are also dramatically relevant and quite powerful, but the macho world may be offensive to a modern perspective where women are treated as compliant , and sometimes not so compliant, sex objects. Just one memorable scene: Jimmy informs his mother that his piano audition did not go so well. His mother stares, squints, scrunches up her face and turns to the wall, utters no words but speaks volumes. In another scene his father tells him he should have been strangled at birth. Jimmy takes out his rage in a number of ways.
Well worth owning. Good Bach piano too."
An educated look at the underside of life.
John Cobb | Austin, TX | 02/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many times over the years James Toback has been referred to as `brilliant', and a good deal of those times the film `Fingers' is mentioned in the same sentence.It stands right there with Resevoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant, and Mean Streets-all Harvey Keitel films which have over the years gotten far more applause than they did earlier..Actually the premise is just enough unique: the concert pianist from the wrong side of the tracks, the carefree and confused collector for his bookie father.Toback's dialogue is very raw, but it is on target for the very raw world he describes. Michael Gazzo gives one of his best performances ever as Keitel's father.Not to be missed, but if you look to Toback to recreate this magic with his later efforts, `The Pick-Up Artist" or "Exposed", don't waste your time. Even his recent "Two Girls and a Guy" might have been "Two Mil Down the Drain" without the superb performance of Robert Downey Jr."
Keitel Is Perfect As Usual
TD | Camp Hill, PA | 01/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"James Toback is quoted as telling Harvey Keitel in the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1977 that Keitel "was born to do Fingers." Toback was right; Keitel delivers a first-rate performance that is arguably his best ever, alongside his work in Mean Streets and Bad Lieutenant. This story is about mental anguish derived from perfectionism; Keitel tries to please his mobster father and his high-strung(describing his mother at best)pianist mother and fails, causing him to fall deeper and deeper into a brewing vat of psychosis. He can find no love from his parents; to satisfy his hunger for love, he becomes fixated on a call girl named Carol (an excellent performance by Tisa Farrow)who he can never have. The rejection of him by his mother, the death of his father, and the loss of Carol combine to push Keitel's character, Jimmy Angelelli, over the edge. Keitel is the father of method acting; his ability to apply the pain he has suffered in real-life situations to scenes in films strengthens the impact of the story once it is told. It's important to remember that this man was praised by Jack Nicholson, a multiple Oscar Winner, as "the best actor I've [Nicholson] ever worked with." This film bombed at the box office; it only played for a few weeks and prior to VHS proliferation in the mid 80s, only hard-core film buffs would have seen this. The film was a failure primarily because Keitel was never taken seriously by Hollywood as a leading man. Hollywood producers only ever saw the young Italian hood Charlie Cappa from Mean Streets when they saw Keitel. If you like stories about tormented characters, Keitel provides an Oscar-caliber performance. Of course, this clashes with Hollywood's view on Keitel, but let me leave you with the following truism: There is no such thing as meritocracy in acting; connections, not talent, make stars. This is why Keitel's career was dead from the making of Fingers until his comeback in the early 90s with Bugsy, Bad Lieutenant, and Reservoir Dogs."
A dark study of obsession
DKELLY20@webtv.net | U.S. | 04/04/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In James Toback's forgotten 1978 masterpiece, actor Harvey Keitel givesone of his greatest performances as avolatile young man who aspires to be aconcert pianist. However, he works as adebt-collector for his ailing,loan sharkfather. We follow this dark loner downhis path of dark obsessions and into therealm of madness as he falls deeper intohis father's violent world of mobsters,and as he develops an ever increasingfascination with a hooker.Taking its cuefrom films like "Taxi Driver", this filmis so lurid that yu can't stop watching.And it has an ending that will knock youinto the middle of next week.Keitel istruly electrifying here, and if you'rein the mood for a dark study in obsession,this film is perfect for you!"