Picture if you will two cousins, Charlie (Mickey Rourke) and Paulie (Eric Roberts), prowling the mean streets of New York's Little Italy. Charlie is reasonably put-together, a maitre d' at a chic café who aspires to running his own restaurant someday. Paulie is an incurable flake who can't resist a temptation or a goofball scheme, couldn't tell the truth to save his soul, and keeps splashing Charlie with the street slop of his slewing trajectory through life. This includes drawing him into the circles of Mob crime, most especially Paulie's boss, that supreme sleazebag "Bedbug Eddie" (Burt Young).
Michael Cimino is said to have had a hand in this movie, though the credited director is Stuart Rosenberg--an impersonal craftsman often hired in midshoot after the star and a more volatile director had parted company. This helps account for the picture's overall lack of rhythm and its wavering between overemphatic, Ethnic-with-a-capital-E idiosyncrasy, and low-key befuddlement. Still, it has its charms, most of them deriving from a terrific cast. At the time it came out, in the summer of 1984, Rourke and Roberts were both exciting, unpredictable talents; Roberts in particular had an amazing talent for being somebody brand new--psychologically, even physically--in every film he made. But even though they're hitting on all cylinders, the boys are quietly upstaged by some redoubtable old pros: the great Kenneth McMillan, the ineffable M. Emmet Walsh, and--scoring her umpteenth Oscar® nomination as the mother of an ill-fated cop--Miss Geraldine Page. --Richard T. Jameson