Chicago Sun-Times - 01/17/1993
"...Scorsese and Keitel have remained true to their first inspirations, maybe because right from the start they were working from what truly obsessed them..."
USA Today - 06/28/1991
"...Martin Scorsese's first feature is a truly seminal work....With a very good performance by Zina Bethune..."
Martin Scorsese's powerful drama tells the story of J.R. (Harvey Keitel), a typical Italian-American boy who has grown up in a comfortable middle-class urban environment. But in that same environment he encounters the decisive split between tradition and his Catholic faith, in addition to the realities of modern life. Out of work but not in need of cash, J.R. carouses with his buddies in the bars and social clubs of Little Italy. He draws a hard line between "the broads you bang" and the girls you go out with and marry--nice girls, such as his girlfriend (Zina Bethune). But after she is raped, J.R. finds that he cannot "forgive" her for the crime, nor stop thinking of her as a "whore."
Scorsese's debut feature film, shot in gritty black and white, introduces some of the techniques that he would later apply to his classics MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, and GOODFELLAS. These include freeze-frames, atypical editing, slow motion, and the use of music to give certain scenes a pulsating rhythm. In making his big-screen debut, Keitel gives a soul-baring performance that is at once passionate and sensitive. Part introspective drama, part docurealism, Scorsese's film is a striking introduction to one of cinema's most worshipped directors.
Cinema legend Martin Scorsese makes his feature-film debut with this crude autobiographical drama that focuses on the relationship between a streetwise thug, who is hung up by his strict Catholic upbringing, and an independent young woman. Harvey Keitel--who also makes his big-screen debut--plays J.R., the conflicted protagonist. Scorsese's film, which introduces his oft-mimicked blend of flashy camera tricks and realistic dialogue, is the work of a major talent who is at the very beginning of his career.