Friday, August 31, 2007

Blue Collar (1978, Paul Schrader)

On one level this is a bitter portrait of organized labor, but delve a little deeper and you'll see that this is Schrader's attempt at bemoaning the death of 60s idealism. The film's multiracial trio of heroes gets pissed off with their lot in life and decide to stick it to the man by ripping him off, but they end up either dead or manipulated so that they're against each other in the end. Schrader comes right out and says it- the powers that be keep the rest of us down by steering our hostilities away from them and toward each other, and most of us don't realize it until it's too late, if ever. Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto are solid as expected, but Richard Pryor owns this movie. It's fascinating to see him outside his straight comedy element, with the anger that he leavened with hilarity onstage standing on its own here. Pryor's character is the one who changes most over the course of the film, and not always for the better, but throughout his metamorphosis from angry worker bee to union patsy he's always completely authentic. It's sad to think what potential he held as an actor that remained untapped due to his self-destructive tendencies and his all-too-frequent retreat back to safe low-comedy vehicles and late-period Superman sequels. Rating: *** out of ****.

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