Young gangster Chas Devlin seeks refuge from the mob in a basement belonging to a reclusive, fading rock star Turner.
Chas, a violent and psychotic East London gangster needs a place to lie low after a hit that should never have been carried out. He finds the perfect cover in the form of guest house run by the mysterious Mr. Turner, a one-time rock superstar, who is looking for the right spark to rekindle his faded talent.
Madness and sanity
This is probably one of the best cult movies ever made. I have seen it about 20 times now and even the last time, it was still not boring and I stayed up late again to watch it at 3 in the morning (even though I have it on video). "Performance" shows James Fox in a part you would never expect from him. The mobster with the secret past and deep dark secrets. Violent and with a "no mercy" attitude. Very impressive. Mick Jagger debuts as an actor in this picture and you can see he wants to do well in the beginning. I know the movie was shot chronologically and Jagger seems to be growing as an actor in each scene. The most impressive performance is the performance German/Italian actress Anita Pallenberg is giving here. As the Jagger's character says in the movie: "The only performance that makes it, that really makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness!" And Anita does just that. She is beautiful, decadent, dangerous, high and grounded and very much herself as Pherber. If you watch this movie, you should really try and focus on her, because she is full of surprises. French teen actress Michèle Breton only starred in this movie and the attention is drawn away from her completely by Pallenberg. That is a shame, because Breton does have some very strong scenes, like the one with Pallenberg when they are talking about the gangster. You can see that both Breton and her character are not sure what they are yet: are they children or young women? This movie clearly deserves 10 out of 10!
A great film, well worth the wait
I missed this film when it came out over thirty years ago, and have looked out for it ever since. At last, after a rare showing on BBC's arts channel, it has proved to be well worth the long wait.
It is a complex film, starting and finishing as a gripping and violent gangster movie, with the more philosophical and erotic section with Jagger and Pallenberg slotted between the gangster elements. James Fox as gangster on the run is a revelation. Why didn't he get parts like this again? He is far more convincing than his contemporary Michael Caine in this kind of role, with a scary viciousness combined with his 'Jack the Lad' charm.
Although Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg don't seem to be playing anything more than themselves, they are perfect foils for Fox. As they embroil Fox in their weird games, the writers/directors Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell create brilliantly the mushroom-based trip that they take him on and through. The film also evokes a fascinating and nostalgic picture of late '60s London and is a reminder that the "swinging sixties" had their grimy and violent side. Overall, a great film that deserves far wider recognition.