A father, involved in murder and other vile activities, introduces his sons to a life of crime. This peculiar movie, based on an actual family situation, often drifts out of control with overwhelming production features and heavy-handed violence.
Christopher Walken is the personification of paternal evil, who, as a murderous thug named simply Brad Snr., heads a gang of thieves and killers who hide out in a barn in the middle of remote rural farm country.
His two sons, Brad Jnr. and Tommy, are played by brothers Sean and Christopher Penn. The kids are bored, tough, pill-popping teenage dropouts who are living refuse, waiting for a garbage dump.
Kicked out of his home for being a good-for-nothing lout, Brad Jnr. (Penn) goes to live with his father, whose idea of giving his kid a present is to hand him a loaded gun and dare him to pull the trigger.
The kid wastes no time willingly and eagerly getting initiated into a life of crime and recruits his younger brother and other buddies to steal tractors, museum relics, even cop cars.
They’re a pack of wild hooligans, without supervision, guidance, or ambition. It takes a real murder to convince Brad Jnr. this might not be as much fun as the movies.
Too bad. Dad won’t let him go. The kids have witnessed too much. Dad rapes his son’s bride-to-be, the kid turns state’s evidence against his own father, and the carnage that results is stomach-churning.
At Close Range has no message. It is simply a violent action film in which the violence is almost pornographic. it has no point of view and no resolute morality of good guys vs. villains. Everyone is contemptible.
Worse still, a great deal of the acting is so incoherently self-indulgent that the film could use subtitles. Sean Penn is too old to play a mixed-up teenager, and his sour snarl doesn’t help.
It is also puzzling why he goes through 75% of the film with peroxide curly hair and appears in the end with a dark brown crew cut.
But it is really Christopher Walken who reduces his dialogue to incomprehensible gibberish. Walken gets weirder and weirder with every appearance. Bug-eyed and dissipated, he looks wasted and gives one of the oddest performances, with one of the most peculiar accents, on record.
Mumbling, jerking, and sucking his tongue, he doesn’t seem mean so much as mental.
Not a movie for anyone with a weak stomach.
Brad Whitewood Jr
Brad Whitewood Sr
Mary Stuart Masterson
R D Call