Street Smart (1987)

R   |    |  Crime, Drama, Thriller


Street Smart (1987) Poster

A New York journalist lies when his fake story about a pimp describes a real pimp up for murder.


6.4/10
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20 November 2009 | D_Burke
7
| Morgan Freeman Is Great As Always, But Story Lacks Crucial Plot Points
"Street Smart" is a movie not a lot of people appear to remember from the 1980's. What attracted me to the movie was the fact that Morgan Freeman received his first ever Academy Award nomination for his role as a pimp in this film. Freeman hasn't played a role like this before or since, and his best known roles to come after this (including Oscar nominated roles) have consisted of more positive characters with effective leadership skills. Although Freeman doesn't play the type of positive African-American role model here that he is now best known for playing,he gives the character of Leo Smalls, Jr., a.k.a. "Fast Black", a three-dimensional performance that few other actors, black or white, would have been able to pull off. He's not just an intimidating presence, or a guy who wears flashy clothes. In fact, the scenes where he goes back to his apartment, and a poster of Martin Luther King, Jr. can be seen in the background, says volumes about his character.

Without a doubt, Freeman's performance is the best thing about this movie. The rest of the movie is indeed intriguing, but has a few weaknesses which makes it feel a little half-baked. With a running time of 94 minutes, at least 20 minutes of footage could have been added to account for these skimmed-over plot details without throwing off the pace of the film.

The late Christopher Reeve is Jonathan Fisher, a Harvard educated print journalist who is under pressure to write a magazine article in a weekend. He submits an idea to his publisher, seemingly off the top of his head, about 24 hours in the life of a pimp. The story is supposed to be true, but Fisher, feeling intense encumbrance to get a story to his editor, fabricates one instead. To his surprise, the story makes the front page, Fisher becomes a celebrity overnight, and moves up to his own TV news segment.

The trouble comes in when some readers believe the article is about one particular real pimp (Freeman) who happens to be on trial for murder. Among those wary readers is the leading prosecutor for that case. Although the fictional article depicts no murder of any kind, Fisher is still ordered to give the court his notes in the trial, or be subject to a jail sentence.

With the trouble comes a story that keeps the viewers' interests high for what comes next, but plot holes that accompany the story remain unexplained throughout. For instance, we have some of an idea what Reeve's character wrote in the article, but no idea what in the article would be considered circumstantial evidence in a murder trial. Having a series of imaginary montages with Reeve's idea of a pimp as he's writing the story would have cleared that unexplained plot point up easily. Plus, although Reeve's character is Harvard educated, that's all we know about his character. How did he come up with the idea to write about a pimp in the first place? Since we never see him in the inner city until after he submitted the story proposal, that occurrence remains unexplained also. Reeve did a great job playing a guy who tries to maintain control of his life and career, only to have both be in jeopardy as his situation goes over his head. It would have been more helpful to establish some real roots for his character, though, not to mention a moral compass of some kind.

There were some other times where the story felt shaky, but the film had other great qualities. For instance, the inner city in the film looked far more real than other "gritty urban dramas" I've seen over the last few years where the movie sets looked like movie sets and the houses looked too polished. Overall though, the film is worth checking out for Freeman's performance, and probably should be remembered better in Reeve's career than "Superman IV: The Quest For Peace". If anything, this movie showed that Reeve can play a character who has everything under control (Superman) just as well as one who does not.

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Details

Release Date:

20 March 1987

Language

English


Country of Origin

USA, Canada

Filming Locations

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$325,835 22 March 1987

Gross USA:

$1,119,112

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,119,112

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