034 - Atlantic City (1981)

Atlantic City tells the story of Lou (Burt Lancaster) who - in his younger days - used to be a big shot in Atlantic City. Recently Lou has followed the course of the now run down city, getting older and forgetting to move with the times.

This all changes with the arrival of Dave, the estranged husband of Sallie (Susan Sarandon), a girl with high aspirations of being Monaco's first dealer and who also lives across the hall from Lou. Dave brings with him stolen drugs and a way to make money.

Dave persuades Lou to sell the drugs but before he can return the money, Dave is killed by mobsters who are hunting their lost drugs. Lou uses the money to propel him to his big-shot days when he used to have respect.

Theatrical Poster
Lou's life was changed after the clampdown on illegal gambling in the 1940's. With the rise of Las Vegas as America's new gambling capital, Atlantic City is a shadow of its former self. Along with this the resident's seemingly unanimously dream of a better place; Lou as someone big, Sallie as somewhere bigger, Dave as somewhere richer and Sallie's sister (who is also Dave's new lover) as someone better upon reincarnation.

Lancaster's casting as Lou seems to be the ideal choice. Lou is sly and thoughtful and this is portrayed well throughout. As Lou begins to see an opportunity for himself, he also has the character to take care of those he cares about in order to earn himself a better reputation on his return to the top.

Sallie is the recipient of much of Lou's attention, with him seeing her daily ritual of rubbing lemon juice into her skin at her window. His fantasies are less than true though as it turns out this is only to remove the fishy smell after her day's work at the fish counter. Sarandon's interpretation of the woman put upon by her relatives is refreshing as she turns from panicky, to relieved and finally to determined.

In turn, Lou's care is also shown through an old mob contact who is now shining shoes in the casino's toilets. Later, we are shown that Lou's money was put to good use as 'everyone is commenting' on how good his friend's new suit is.

With all this kindness on the part of Lou it is easy to forget the story behind it all - and the mobster's want their stash of cocaine back. A showdown is on the cards as Lou finds relief in his final rise to influence in the dwindling Atlantic City.

Well written story, well acted film and well directed by Frenchman Louis Malle in his one breakthrough movie.