A retired small-time gangster and an aspiring blackjack dealer
become entangled in a love affair involving drugs and money.
Atlantic City (1980)
Directed by Louis Malle
Written by John Guare
Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid,
Hollis McLaren, Robert Joy, Michael Piccoli, Al Waxman
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Susan Sarandon), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay
Ever since I fell in love with his portrayal of amoral preacher man Elmer Gantry, I have been obsessed with Burt Lancaster. He's one of the greatest of all time, and his career speaks for itself. Atlantic City was in the later half of his life, but he doesn't skip a beat. You can almost view the character of Lou Pascal as Elmer Gantry in his twilight years, looking for one last way to feel alive again. He has impeccable chemistry with Susan Sarandon and together, they make this crime drama/love letter to a bygone era something special.
Lou Pascal (Lancaster) is a small-time gangster who never really made his mark on his town, Atlantic City. He ran with the big boys, but he was always small potatoes. Meanwhile, his neighbor Sally (Sarandon) is learning how to be a blackjack dealer and has her life interrupted by the sudden appearance of her ex-husband Dave (Joy), who stole a bunch of coke and is trying to sell it. Through sheer dumb luck, Dave runs into Lou, and convinces him to help him sell the dope. But when Dave is killed by the gangsters he stole from, Lou finds Sally and together, they have to escape Atlantic City. It's an engaging plot with superbly written characters.
In the background of the film, and in certain bits of dialogue, you understand that Atlantic City used to be something special. It was Sinatra's town, a town of glitz, glamour, and gangsters. But along the way, something changed. Atlantic City became just another grimy big city, and Lou is one of the last parts of the old world still walking around. Much in the same way, in the 1980's, Burt Lancaster was one of the last relics of classic Hollywood still working.