Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is a small time nobody of a criminal who has been in and out of jail his entire life. Most recently, he has just been released from San Quentin after a six year stretch for armed robbery. He’s trying to do some straight time now that he out of jail but the odds, the system, and as becomes most obvious, he himself are all against him.
The parole officer assigned to Max, Earl Frank (M. Emmett Walsh), is a patronizing low-life, playing mind games continually attempting to bait Max; almost daring him to do something that will land him back in prison. At first, all Max wants is a place to live, a job and a girl. But Max is his own worst enemy. He’s a born liar and a career crook. He even lies about small things for no other reason than it’s just the natural thing for him to do; not admitting the truth no matter how unimportant.
Max’s attempt at a straight life is short lived. He gets an honest job at a canning factory, he met a girl, Jenny (Theresa Russell) at the employment agency but he still hooks up with an old friend one night, Willy Darin (Gary Busey), an ex-con who one day ends up cooking up some coke in Max’s dumpy apartment. When Earl Frank unexpectedly stops by a day or so later, he finds burned out matches on the floor of Max’s apartment. This is enough for Earl to come down on Max and lock him up in the County jail to have him tested for drug use. After he is found to be clean, Earl gets him released, but for Max, he is about to turn a corner from which he will never return. Continue reading