It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Love stories are about people who find love in happy times.
Tragedies are about people who seek love in unhappy times. "Last Exit to Brooklyn" makes a point of taking place in the early 1950s, when all of the escape routes had been cut off for its major characters. The union official cannot admit to being left wing. The strike leader cannot reveal he is homosexual. The father cannot express his love for his child, the prostitute cannot accept her love for the sailor, and the drag queen is not able to love himself. There isn't even any music to release these characters - rock 'n' roll is still in the future, and the pop ballads of the era mock the passions of everyday life. The characters drink and some of them do drugs, but they don't get high - they simply find the occasional release of oblivion.
The movie takes place in one of the gloomiest and most depressing urban settings I've seen in a movie. These streets aren't mean, they're unforgiving. Vast blank warehouse walls loom over the barren pavements, and vacant lots are filled with abandoned cars where mockeries of love take place. When Hubert Selby Jr. wrote the book that inspired this movie 25 years ago, it was attacked in some quarters as pornographic, but it failed the essential test: It didn't arouse prurient interest, only sadness and despair.
Why do I respond so strongly to movies like this - and "Barfly," "Taxi Driver," "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" and "Christiane F.," which was the previous film by the makers of "Last Exit to Brooklyn"? Most people hate movies like this. I think perhaps it is because no attempt is being made to force the characters and stories into comforting endings. The movies don't let me off the hook.