Street Smart

Christopher Reeve as a Janet Cooke journalist who invents a story about a New York pimp, then pays the price for his unstreetwise deception. There's something about seedy undersides that brings out the best (or at least the personal) in director Jerry Schatzberg (Scarecrow, Panic in Needle Park), though his Elia Kazan social consciousness could use a little toning down: so many issues vie for attention here (journalistic ethics and First Amendment rights, ghetto realism and the sociology of pimpdom, the education of yuppie innocence, the pros and cons of graffiti scribbling, etc) that the basic Hitchcockian thrust of the story—the mortal machinery set in motion by a single, callow deception—almost disappears. As in Needle Park, Schatzberg's style wavers between urban verite and psychodramatic pounding, though he does manage to evoke some strong, naturalistic performances from his cast (especially Morgan Freeman as a homicidal pimp) and even turns Reeve's perennial screen discomfort into an iconographic asset: he's so out of place in the Times Square jungle his street reeducation seems preordained. With Kathy Baker, Mimi Rogers, Jay Patterson, and Andre Gregory.

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