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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 5.56%
Pretty Bad: 5.56%
Total Crap: 16.67%

1 review, 12 user ratings

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American Gigolo
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Very Noteworthy Early Effort From Paul Schrader"
5 stars

In a role intended for John Travolta, Richard Gere goes excellently about the well-written paces of this very moving piece of cinema.

Paul Schrader's American Gigolo is a small masterpiece at depicting the pain and loneliness and stressing the inherent need for emotional connections. Don't get the impression that you're in for a heavy-handed tale of morality that has the stench of didactic pompousness. Far from it. Writer/director Paul Schrader, who wrote the scorching screenplay for Taxi Driver but failed to deliver in his first two directorial outings, Blue Collar and Hardcore, has developed considerably, and his newfound confidence is a wonder to behold.

Set in the sun-drenched plasticity of Beverly Hills, the film tells the story of Julian Kay (Richard Gere), the best male escort in the business. For a thousand dollars a night he provides companionship for mostly older women whose husbands have cut them out of their lives. Julian treats each of his clients as if she were the most luxuriously alluring woman in the world while relegating himself to the role of the fortunate object of their desires. He knows what women want, and he moves through this rich community with fluidity and ease.

He works at it, though. Julian speaks five to six different languages, drives a black Mercedes, has a sinful array of Armani clothing, and it doesn't hurt that he's inhumanly handsome and ingratiatingly charming. He's a class act, and he knows it; but he's also a loner whose world is full of surface value and material possessions which give the impression of a life but not an emotionally-enriched one. Julian's attuned to the world yet cut off from it as well. His exterior exudes satisfaction (it has to) while his interior self aches to love and be loved in return.

Things take quite the turn when Julian becomes a murder suspect in the slaying of a one-time client. The police have an eyewitness and strong evidence placing at the scene of the crime; Julian confesses that he serviced the victim once but is completely innocent of her murder. The lead detective on the case (a wonderfully slimy Hector Elizondo) doesn't buy Julian's story and continues to hound him, which disrupts his quiet life where reputation is everything. Soon he's being shunned by his clients and enduring their shared sense of alienation.

As if this isn't enough, Julian falls for the beautiful Michelle Stanton (Lauren Hutton), whose marriage to a state senator campaigning for governor is on the rocks. They meet in a hotel bar, where Julian mistakes her for a prospective client; and, upon learning of his profession, she challenges him by asking all the penetrating questions he no longer has answers to. These are two lonely people who've encountered each other at the worst possible time, yet an undeniable love develops that gives them the inner strength needed to overcome their problems and helps to define the people they are.

American Gigolo works remarkably well as a penetrating character study, a touching romantic tale, and an involving mystery. The plot points convincingly come together while the human interactions ring completely true. The film has a richly-textured atmosphere that's enhanced through John Bailey's superlative cinematography and Fredrico Scarifotti's breathtaking production design.

Gere is absolutely perfect as Julian. The performance could be accused of vapid self-adoration, but it's actually a finely modulated piece of work that's graced with supple doses of variety. Hutton, underplaying to fine effect, is solid and luminous. Elizondo and Bill Duke, as Julian's occasional pimp, contribute vivid portraits, with Elizondo the standout -- whether chomping on a cigar or taking notes on Julian's grooming advice, this wonderful character actor tears through his role with such colorful energy that he steals every scene he's in.

But the real ace here is Paul Schrader, who's written an emotional and literate piece of work that envelops the possibilities for embracing and accepting the gift of unselfish love. He never tries punching up the love story -- he inlayers it, with economy -- so when Michelle makes the ultimate sacrifice we can readily accept it without groaning at the usual junked-up perfunctoriness we've grown to expect from by-the-number love stories. And Schrader guides the story forth with a fine hand: the direction is cooly detached and flourishingly vital when appropriate. Hence, American Gigolo is a landmark of a film that earns Schrader a medal in something quite rare these days: cinematic humanity.

See it.

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originally posted: 10/10/07 03:00:37
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User Comments

9/20/17 Ken A very good film with a cool soundtrack. 4 stars
1/31/15 Jack Sommersby Once again PAUL SHORTT pathetically copies Leonard Maltin. 5 stars
3/12/08 BD Kane Splendid movie, Splendid wardrobe, an American classic! 5 stars
8/14/06 Josh Racine I give this film a solid 9 out of 10 stars. 5 stars
11/18/05 John Dog Just OK. The beginning is the only awesome scene, with Richard Gere driving his cool car. 3 stars
12/08/03 john elegant, stylish and..uh heck the previous reviewer said it all! 5 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby Stylish, intelligent, and ultimately very touching. 5 stars
10/23/02 Anastasia Beaverhausen Cool soundtrack, nothing more 2 stars
3/25/01 Monster W. Kung Richard Gere is pathetic as usual, and this movie sucks from beginning to end. 1 stars
12/02/99 Bozo Gere has no acting ability and Lauren Hutton is embarrassing; music was OK 1 stars
2/23/99 Cool Thing One of those great 80's films where Gere plays the guy every guy wants to be. 4 stars
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  01-Feb-1980 (R)
  DVD: 23-May-2000


  02-Jul-1980 (M)

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