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Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Starring:

Barnard Hughes

Brenda Vaccaro

Dustin HoffmanDustin Hoffman

Gary Owens

Gilman Rankin

Jennifer Salt

John McGiver

Jon VoightJon Voight

Ruth White

Sylvia Miles

Directed by:

John Schlesinger

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 113 minutes

On DVD

Midnight Cowboy – it’s not about cowboys and not much about midnight either. It’s about male prostitution and tuberculosis, of course. Doesn’t sound like fun but it’s one of a plethora of gritty movies to come out of the seventies and show you what city life can be like for some. It’s one of the best and was also the making of John Voight and another classic role for Dustin Hoffman.

Schlesinger’s Seventies classic follows naïve, young Joe Buck (Voight) as he moves from a Texas backwater to the streets of New York City, seeking his fortune as a male prostitute. The latest in a long line of people to effortlessly hustle Joe is Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman), a down-and-out conman with tuberculosis, who cons him out of large chunk of his dwindling money supplies. Seeking revenge, Joe finds Ratso, only to become friends and move into an abandoned building together. The rest of the movie then charts the day-to-day survival of the pair until Ratso’s health begins to fail dramatically.

Midnight Cowboy is an urban tale very much driven by excellent performances and absurd and likeable characters living on the edge. Dustin Hoffman puts in another star turn as Ratso Rizzo as he physically gets into the part and also makes the viewer simultaneously feel a dislike and sympathy for a man who has fallen on very hard times. Ratso is basically, the Rain Man with a few more social skills and without the rich family. As long as you can watch Voight’s exaggerated open-mouthed munching of his chewing gum with a limited amount of annoyance and revulsion, you will see him touchingly portraying a naiveté and misplaced confidence that rightly made me cringe in many of the earlier scenes. Their maturing friendship and the final scenes are the defining aspects of this seminal piece of Americana.

It's Got: Heavy mastication, masturbation and emasculation.

It Needs: Less cheesy flashback scenes.

DVD Extras The 2-disc Special Edition has an audio commentary (by producer Hellman as Schlesinger had died by this point), 3 short features and a photo gallery DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Summary

Schlesinger’s classic Seventies tale of the American Dream gone wrong, starring a very young John Voight and a very small Dustin Hoffman. Most definitely not a Western.

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