Louis Malle's moody, gossamer story about an aging gangster (Burt Lancaster) and his young casino-worker lover (Susan Sarandon) is one of the French filmmaker's most successful atmospheric pieces. Released in 1980, it followed Malle's controversial Pretty Baby (1978), and it proved to some critics that Malle was more than a director who aimed to shock with sex scenes. Like Pretty Baby, this is an outsider's incisive portrait of a slice of American culture, with gamblers and drug dealers carrying on their tired routines in a city that seems, like Lancaster's character Lou, to be fading fast. It's ultimately a deep character study about clinging to old habits and surviving change. Atlantic City garnered five top Oscar nominations, though it won none of them. It did win several British and American film critics' awards. It contains one of Lancaster's most harrowing and memorable performances. Screenwriter John Guare went on to pen Six Degrees of Separation.
by Michael Betzold review