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Atlantic City

" ...Louis Malle's Atlantic City (1980),... takes place in an apartment house near the Boardwalk. It's slated for demolition, and all around are vacant lots filled with rubble and the sky-cranes of new construction. Every exterior shot seems to have a background of debris being shoved out of upper windows, or bulldozers clearing vacant lots."

"In this doomed building live three people: An oyster-bar waitress named Sally (Susan Sarandon), an aging numbers runner named Lou (Burt Lancaster) and a widow named Grace (Kate Reid), who came to the city 40 years ago for a Betty Grable look-alike contest and depends on Lou to run her errands, some of a sexual nature. She lives in an apartment so filled with photographs, stuffed animals, feather boas, geegaws, silk festoons and glitz...."

"Lou claims to have been big-time in Vegas in the old days, 'a cellmate of Bugsy Siegel,' no less. Now he walks a daily route through Atlantic City's urban decay, taking 25-cent bets on the numbers. It's implied that a stipend from Grace keeps him afloat. At night he stands behind the blinds of his darkened apartment and watches as Sally engages in an after-work ritual. She cuts fresh lemons and caresses her skin to take away the shellfish smell."

"Into this closed world come two loose cannons, Dave and Chrissie. Dave was once married to Sally, then ran away with Chrissie, Sally's younger sister."

"She's taking lessons in blackjack from a casino boss (Michel Piccoli). Dave has stolen some drugs in Philadelphia, wants to sell them in Atlantic City, and has a contact named Alfie (Al Waxman) who runs a permanent poker game in a hotel room. Gangsters from Philadelphia inevitably come looking for their drugs and for Dave, who becomes dead. Chrissie becomes the confidant of Grace, Lou inherits the drugs and makes the deals, and then he buys himself a new white suit and sets himself up as a knight in shining armor to protect Sally from the guys who killed her ex-husband."

"There is nothing particularly new in this screenplay, written by the playwright John Guare, and assembled from drugs, colorful characters, a decaying city, memories of the past. What makes "Atlantic City" sweet -- and that's the word for it -- is the gentleness with which Lou handles his last chance at amounting to something, and the wisdom with which Sally handles Lou. Lou wants to take the drug money as a gift from the gods and recreate his glory days. The question is, were there really glory days? ..."

"What's interesting, even with a seemingly commercial project like "Atlantic City," is how resolutely he [Malle] stayed with the human dimension of his story and let the drug plot supply an almost casual background. Here is a movie where reincarnation is treated at least as seriously as cocaine, and the white suit even more so." ------ Roger Ebert


  • Widescreen
  • Available Subtitles: English
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Curator's Comments:
Read Roger Ebert's essay on this DVD Classic.

Director: Louis Malle
103 minutes
Released: 1980
Rated: R

Country: U.S.A./Canada/France
Language: English/French
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance


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