Street Smart (1987)

Street Smart (1987)

Taglines: To get even he must get Street Smart.

Magazine reporter Jonathan Fisher, in danger of losing his job, promises to write a factual hard-hitting story of prostitution. But when he tries to get information from the subjects, he is ignored. So he ends up faking a well received story of a pimp, describing his life and crimes. But police think the story is of a real life pimp who is wanted for murder and start pressuring him to reveal the identity of subject in his story, and all he knows. The pimp the police suspect, also thinks the story is about himself, and wants to know what Jonathan knows, and who told him.

Street Smart is a 1987 American thriller-drama film directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring Christopher Reeve, Kathy Baker, Mimi Rogers, Jay Patterson, Andre Gregory, Morgan Freeman, Anna Maria Horsford, Frederick Rolf and Donna Bailey. It was shot in New York City and Montreal, Quebec.

Film Review for Street Smart

“Street Smart” tells of a facile, blowhard journalist who’s corrupt enough to fictionalize an entire feature story. But it is not the predictable tale of this man’s lapse and subsequent redemption – and that’s what makes it interesting. Instead, ”Street Smart” follows Jonathan Fisher (Christopher Reeve) from his first misstep into the web of trouble spun out of his initial set of lies. It grows into an engrossing study of loose talk, weakness and seduction, played out in both the world of high-powered journalism and the seediest corners of Times Square.

Street Smart (1987)

”Street Smart,” which opens today at the U.A. Twin and other theaters, centers on a shrewd writer who proves to be a lot less clever than he supposes. To satisfy an editor at a publication that sounds a lot like New York magazine, Jonathan concocts a wholly fictional profile of a Times Square pimp, whom he dubs Tyrone. (David Denby, New York’s film critic, has noted that David Freeman, who wrote the script, faked his own such profile in that magazine some years ago.) Jonathan does this partly because he can’t persuade real pimps to talk to him, and partly just because it’s easy. In any case, the story is a big success. Tyrone becomes the toast of the town.

Everyone wants to meet him, starting with Jonathan’s equally glib editor, played with a flurry of brittle energy by a dapper-looking Andre Gregory. More to the point, the district attorney’s office, prosecuting a real pimp named Fast Black (Morgan Freeman), finds the Tyrone story of great interest. For reasons that are not made completely clear – one of several key plot problems with Mr. Freeman’s otherwise ingenious screenplay – Jonathan has, after only chatting with a prostitute who knows Fast Black, inadvertently captured him so completely that the district attorney’s office thinks he has met with the real McCoy. So Jonathan’s editor wants Tyrone invited to dinner. And the attorney prosecuting Fast Black wants to subpoena Jonathan’s notes.

The situation becomes even more compelling when Jonathan and Fast Black finally meet. Mr. Reeve, who manages the challenging job of giving a credible, unflattering performance as a man with very little backbone, is particularly good in the scene that has him quietly marveling at his own hipness while he and Fast Black, his new friend, drive around the city.

And Morgan Freeman, who is extremely good, makes Fast Black a clever, hot-tempered manipulator who recognizes what a sucker he’s found in clean-cut, upscale Jonathan. So when Jonathan immediately realizes that he can pass off Fast Black as the real Tyrone, he is by far the less shrewd of the two. It is Fast Black who’s the better schemer, once he sees how much he can force Jonathan to do in support of his initial bogus story.

”Street Smart” winds up being a bit too smart for its own good, but it’s compelling and complex. As directed by Jerry Schatzberg, it’s a frankly lurid film capable of fine, unexpected subtleties. Mr. Schatzberg is able to orchestrate a hotel-room meeting between Jonathan and a feisty, knowing prostitute (played very memorably by Kathy Baker) so that it suggests the many different forms of seduction to which this opportunistic writer finally submits.

He is able to intermingle the Times Square and glossy journalism worlds with a nicely understated irony. Even when the film goes too far, as in an overly obvious party scene mixing high life and low, or in an ending that unconvincingly affirms Jonathan’s supremacy, it sustains a certain basic perceptiveness. The ways in which Jonathan slides from one job into another, from one woman to her supposed opposite, from lies into truth and back again, are powerfully underscored.

Mr. Schatzberg, in addition to eliciting strong performances from actors in difficult roles, has given the film a palpably shifting moral climate and an evocative visual style; the set decoration says a lot about the various characters’ illusions about themselves. ”Street Smart” tells a disturbing story, and tells it well.

Street Smart Movie Poster (1987)

Street Smart (1987)

Directed by: Jerry Schatzberg
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kathy Baker, Mimi Rogers, Jay Patterson, Andre Gregory, Morgan Freeman, Anna Maria Horsford, Frederick Rolf, Donna Bailey
Screenplay by: David Freeman
Production Design by: Dan Leigh
Cinematography by: Adam Holender
Film Editing by: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly
Costume Design by: Jo Ynocencio
Set Decoration by: Bill Stabile
Art Direction by: Serge Jacques
Music by: Robert Irving
Distributed by: Cannon Films
Release Date: March 20, 1987