This weekend is Labor Day weekend, which celebrates the American labor movement. Over the years, there have been many films that would be appropriate to watch on this holiday. One of the more harsh and unflinching ones is “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” which was released in 1989.
“Last Exit to Brooklyn” is set in the 1950s and is based on a controversial cult favorite novel by Hurbert Selby Jr. In this look at the everyday lives of working men and women, union members in Brooklyn are waging a strike. The movie follows the lives of several different characters that are affected by it. One is ostensibly tough guy Harry Black (played by Stephen Lang), who works for the union. He is gay, but the social mores of the 1950s force him to keep his real sexual preferences hidden. Another character is Donna (played by Rikki Lake), a pregnant teen who whose father (played by Burt Young) is a worker on strike. Another character is Tralala (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), a local prostitute who lures customers to vacant lots so her friends can mug them.
“Last Exit to Brooklyn” tells a bleak story and the director, Uli Edel, wisely does not try to make it upbeat. It is often violent, and most of the characters are unhappy with their lives.
The cast is excellent. Stephen Lang is quite good as Harry, who causes others to suffer as a result of his difficult sexual life. The movie’s best performance is by Jennifer Jason Leigh. She does an effective job with her character’s thick accent and brutal existence. Although she is immoral, we are able to feel some sympathy for her.
Although it is grim and will definitely not appeal to everyone, “Last Exit to Brooklyn” is well-worth seeing for those who do not mind its unsettling story.