(director: John Flynn; screenwriters: Thomas Michael Donnelly/story by Thomas Michael Donnelly & Mark Tulin; cinematographer: Ric Waite; editor: David Finfer; music: Dominic Frontiere; cast: Jan Michael Vincent (Tommy Gamble), Theresa Sadana (Marsha Bernstein), Art Carney (Abe Santos), Rudy Ramos (Angel Cruz), Morales Paolo (Rudy), Frank Pesce(Herbie), Danny Aiello (Carmine), Fernando Lopez (Kid), Lenny Montana (Whacko), Lee Yuro (Bandana), James Victor (Father Rivera), Joe Campanella (Karenski), Alberto Vasquez (Slagg), Randy Herman (Tito), Don Blakely (Abbie); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Jerry Bruckheimer/ William Gilmore Jr.; MGM; 1980

“Atmospheric but simplistic urban gang drama.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Flynn (“The Sergeant”/”The Outfit”) helms this atmospheric but simplistic urban gang drama. It’s based on a story by Thomas Michael Donnelly & Mark Tulin. The screenplay is by Donnelly.

Merchant marine seaman Tommy (Jan-Michael Vincent) is suspended from duty and the rootless young man is forced to stay in New York’s Lower East Side while waiting to ship out. The stranger finds life in the slum trying, as it’s noisy, his apartment is cramped, the streets are dirty and a bullying Puerto Rican gang called The Souls, led by Angel Cruz (Rudy Ramos), patrols the neighborhood and threatens the fearful locals. The affable stranger befriends the old timer nice guy grocer Abe (Art Carney), a member of the Sportsman’s club (Danny Aiello), an orphan street kid (Fernando Lopez) living with the soft-hearted retarded Whacko (Lenny Montana) and the upstairs hairdresser Marsha Bernstein (Theresa Sadana). She becomes his romantic interest. Tommy can’t get a ship quick enough to leave the slum, as the union rep (Joe Campanella) tries but can’t get him one. While Tommy impatiently waits, he witnesses the gang shakedown Abe for groceries, Whacko and the Kid get beaten, the church bingo game is robbed and the priest assaulted, and the gang rob and beat Tommy in the Delancey Street toilet.

You know it’s a matter of time before Tommy retaliates, and his courage encourages the locals to stand up to the gang and kick them out of their neighborhood.

It’s an unimportant film in the gang cycle genre, but the supporting cast keeps the nonsense from being too much.

Defiance (1980)