American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Cisco Pike" is a long way from being a masterpiece, but it has a nice hang-loose texture to it, and a group of good performances. The performance that holds it together comes, somewhat surprisingly, from Kris Kristofferson. I admit to surprise because popular singers are usually pretty awful in their movie debuts. Maybe that's because movies tend to exploit their off-screen images, rather than giving them characters to play.
Kristofferson is indeed typecast somewhat as a folk-rock singer and composer. But the character has been conceived from the ground up, and he fits well into it and makes it breathe. He's got the easy, informal kind of acting control that works in the movies. He doesn't overact or kill himself trying to project, and so we don't feel pushed.
The movie has been written off in some quarters as another youth-drug-music trip, which is too bad. It has also suffered at the box office because it stars Gene Hackman as a narcotics detective, and people feel they've already seen the definitive Hackman narc in "The French Connection." Well, they have. But "Cisco Pike" is a story about people, and the whole business of the drugs and the cop is extra and leads to an ending we just can't buy.
Along the way, though, we meet Cisco Pike, who was a headliner a few years ago but has been getting by lately by dealing drugs. He gets out of the business, more or less, and then the Hackman character steals a big supply of pot and blackmails Cisco into selling it. This leads into the plot that supposedly holds the movie together, although in fact most of the dealing scenes are distractions.