At Close Range [1986]

One of the overlooked films of the 1980s, perhaps because it is such a downbeat tale of an amoral family. Sean Penn plays a kid whose small-time criminal impulses are stoked to a new level when he falls in with his father (Christopher Walken), a vicious career criminal for whom no problem is so large that it can't be solved by a murder. At first exhilarated by the attention from his father (and the jobs he gives him to do), he gradually catches on to just what a bad guy Dad really is. But when he tries to extricate himself, he discovers that Dad now has him squarely in his sights. Penn is terrific in a role of emotional complexity, while Walken, king of the creeps, is positively frightening as this soft-spoken but highly lethal patriarch. --Marshall Fine

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