In retrospect, Paul Schrader's paean to perms, pimps, and playboy peccadillos seems like the first instant of the 1980s. Even while the subject matter remains steeped in a depraved '70s milieu, Richard Gere practices the kind of casual materialism and wears the kind of pastel Miami Vice fashion that confirms the arrival of that decade. The result is a zeitgeist film balancing on a tight rope between one world of underground lairs and street hustles, and another of high-priced hotels and sprawling swimming pools. Even when Julian struts and strides, confidently burning bridges and flaunting his business acumen, all the while enjoying the fruits of his labors, the sword of Damocles is visible over his head. He's ready for the free enterprise of the 1980s, but the debts of the 1970s hold him back -- in more ways than he anticipated. Always good at documenting seedy underbellies, Schrader continued in that vein two years after writing Taxi Driver (and two years before Raging Bull), even if his agenda sometimes softens to lukewarmness, especially in the unfulfilling finish. This film also announced Gere as a handsome new star to be reckoned with, worth more than John Travolta's sloppy seconds. The other lingering impression is the genial malevolence of the pimp created by character actor Bill Duke; his is a simmering presence. American Gigolo is one of the best-known early efforts from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and one of the last not to make a serious chunk of change at the box office.