(director/writer: Marc Rocco; screenwriters: Michael Hitchcock/Kurt Voss; cinematographer: King Baggot; editor: Russell Livingstone; music: Mark Morgan; cast: Laura San Giacomo (The Interviewer), Dermot Mulroney (King), Will Smith (Manny), Lara Flynn Boyle (Heather), Ricki Lake (Brenda), Sean Astin (Greg), James LeGros (Crasher), Balthazar Getty (Little J), Nancy McKeon (Vikki), Adam Baldwin (Officer Black), Stephen Tobolowsky (Charles), Kyle MacLachlan (Ted), Christian Slater (Rocky); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Paul Hertzberg; New Line Cinema; 1992)

“Nothing new here to be glommed, but this slickly done film is nevertheless hard-hitting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director/writer Marc Rocco shoots this spunky urban social drama in Foto-Kem color. It’s co-written by Michael Hitchcock and Kurt Voss. Set around Hollywood Boulevard, it traces the lives of a group of aimless Los Angeles runaway kids living on the street (in a dinghy tunnel-like enclave under the Hollywood Freeway). What goes down is seen through the eyes of their 20-year-old unofficial leader and father figure, the street-smart hustler King (Dermot Mulroney). He might not be a good role model, but he looks after these youngsters as if they were family and gains their confidence more than their folks ever did. The group of runaways survive through begging, petty theft, and prostitution. In the main group are the pathetically wasted drug addict Greg (Sean Astin); the self-hating, gay, socially maladjusted, fuck up, baby-faced Little J (Balthazar Getty); and, the runaway newcomer minor from Chicago named Heather (Lara Flynn Boyle). The pretty girl provides the love interest for King, in a role that’s all too familiar in such flicks. What they all share in common, is a driving need to find acceptance and security.

The film has Laura San Giacomo play a prison psychologist, who acts as an interviewer to question the just released from prison King about his street life and the values he believes in. It veers more to being a documentary than a Drugstore Cowboy type of drama, and consists of a series of flashbacks triggered by King’s chats with the interviewer. These interludes fill us in on how someone might become a street person and end up living such an unappealing life, and much is also made of society’s indifference to the runaway’s plight.

There is nothing new here to be glommed, but this slickly done film is nevertheless hard-hitting and relevant and well-acted by the strong ensemble cast (which includes future stars such as Will Smith and Ricki Lake). Kyle MacLachan stands out as the sinister drug dealer who seduces Sean Astin in a Faustian way. But the manufactured ending seems to undo a lot of the early effort to appear natural and gritty.

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