Another harrowing detour to hell, not for the squeamish or prudish, this blistering adaptation of Hubert Selby’s shocking short-story collection about violence and suffering in the Brooklyn slums of the early 1950s is like watching a gang rape. You are horrified but unable to do anything about what you’re seeing.
Here are frank and explicit themes of homosexuality, prostitution, drug addiction, gang warfare, and union corruption that will make even the toughest viewer wince.
But the acting is superb – especially Jennifer Jason-Leigh as Tralala, a wounded, burned-out whore, and Stephen Lang as Harry Black, a gruff, two-fisted dockworker who discovers his true sexual identity with a fickle drag queen – and the bleak mosaic of Brooklyn’s lower depths has a weird beauty, like a canvas by Brueghel.
Alexis Arquette (Rosanna’s brother) creates an affecting portrait of Georgette, a transvestite whose longing for the brutal Vinnie (Peter Dobson) leads to disaster.
A few Republican Senators should see this one. It would give them a cardiac arrest.
Jennifer Jason Leigh