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110 minutes
John Cassavetes clearly set out to make a commercial film, but, intransigent personality that he was, he turned in a slice of pure avant-garde: this 1980 release makes use of a fascinating discrepancy between dramatic tone and visual style. It's written as a soggy, conventional melodrama, about an ex-gun moll (Gena Rowlands) who tries to protect an orphaned Puerto Rican boy from the mob, but it's directed in Cassavetes's usual style of deflated naturalism. While the script pitches a series of wildly improbable events, the direction remains disruptively attuned to the dark, arrhythmic poetry of anticlimax. Heightened emotion and nagging banal reality fight each other for screen space, doing final battle in a daringly ambiguous ending. With John Adames, Buck Henry, and Julie Carmen.

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