Alan J. Pakula’s spellbinding 1987 film of Lyle Kessler’s play, adapted by the playwright himself from a Steppenwolf production, focuses on three powerhouse performancesby Matthew Modine and Kevin Anderson as orphaned brothers holed up in a decrepit house in Newark, and Albert Finney as a big-time gangster who enters their world and transforms it. While the material never fully sheds its stage origins, Pakula and the actors play this all-male family romance for all it’s worth, and the tantalizing sense of unreality that hovers around the edges of the plot works as a kind of compression device for concentrating on the hermetically sealed world conjured up by the actors and decor, which begins in Algren-esque squalor and winds up as something resembling a middle-class household. Pakula works at his peak, and Finney has seldom been better. (JR)

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