Fingers (1978)

Genres - Action, Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Crime Drama, Family Drama, Coming-of-Age  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Jimmy is seen alone at his piano playing Bach. When he finishes, he sees a beautiful girl outside the window. He chases after her. This establishes Jimmy's nature. He is full of passion and can channel it in any number of directions. What will happen if he can't channel that passion? Jimmy's gangster father enlists his help in picking up payments. Simultaneously, Jimmy is practicing for a Carnegie Hall audition. The film, which barely has a plot, is an examination of Jimmy slowly becoming psychologically undone because of the pressures from both the outside world and his internal intensity. James Toback's script sets the audience up for Jimmy's instability. His institutionalized mother, his violent father, and his passionate nature all work together to create a portrait of a man slowly losing his grip. In addition to the beautifully structured script, Keitel is willing and capable of making viewers believe the character. In one early scene, Jimmy is sitting in a restaurant playing a radio very loudly. A man asks him to turn the noise down. Keitel, with a sinister smile on his face, explains to the man that the song is one of the most innovative rock songs of all time. Jimmy is brimming with the desire to deck the man. Keitel captures the fervent, violent, and tumultuous inner life of the character. Toback utilizes many of the same filmmaking techniques Martin Scorsese applied in his earliest work. The prominent use of popular music, the shot-on-location New York settings, and the display of low-level gangsters' everyday lives are reminiscent of both Who's That Knocking at My Door? and Mean Streets, both films in which Keitel stars. While certainly paying tribute to Scorsese, Toback has a purpose to his style beyond simple homage. By putting viewers in this violent, realistic, un-Hollywood location, Jimmy's madness becomes palpable. The world of the film affects the character and the audience in equal measure, making the audience identify all the more with the disturbing aspects of Jimmy's inner life. It is worth noting that Toback gave the disturbed lead character in his directorial debut the same first name as himself.