Last Exit to Brooklyn (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Last Exit to Brooklyn
Last Exit to Brooklyn FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byUli Edel
Screenplay byDesmond Nakano
Based onLast Exit to Brooklyn
by Hubert Selby Jr.
Produced byBernd Eichinger
CinematographyStefan Czapsky
Edited byPeter Przygodda
Music byMark Knopfler
Distributed byNeue Constantin Film (Germany)
Guild Film Distribution (United Kingdom)
Cinecom Pictures (United States)
Release dates
  • 12 October 1989 (1989-10-12) (West Germany)
  • 5 January 1990 (1990-01-05) (United Kingdom)
  • 2 May 1990 (1990-05-02) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
CountriesWest Germany
United Kingdom
United States
Budget$17 million[2]
Box office$1,730,005[3]

Last Exit to Brooklyn, originally entitled "Stick Me Vinnie" is a 1989 drama film directed by Uli Edel and adapted by Desmond Nakano from Hubert Selby Jr.'s 1964 novel of the same title.[4][5][6] The film is an international co-production between Germany, the UK, and the United States.[5][4] The story is set in 1950s Brooklyn and takes place against the backdrop of a labor strike. It follows interlocking storylines among the working class underbelly of the Red Hook neighborhood, including unionized workers, sex workers, and drag queens.


In 1952 Brooklyn, workers have entered the sixth month of a strike against the local factory. Shop steward Harry Black relishes his new role as the strike secretary as it allows him to get out of the house, away from his wife who does not realize that Harry is gay. Boyce, the union leader, tries to negotiate between the factory and union representatives.

Meanwhile, Tralala is a prostitute who lures unsuspecting sailors out to a vacant lot to be robbed by Vinnie, an ex-convict and Tralala's pimp. Georgette is a young transgender woman who harbors a crush on Vinnie. Big Joe, one of the striking workers, struggles with accepting his daughter's out of wedlock pregnancy and embracing his future son-in-law.

Harry meets Regina, another transgender woman, and falls in love with her. Tralala also meets a kindly sailor in Manhattan who appears to truly love her and lets her move in with him. Both romances end on tragic notes for Harry and Tralala.




There had been several attempts to adapt Last Exit to Brooklyn into a film since the controversial book's 1964 publication.[7] One of the earliest attempts was made by producer Steve Krantz and animator Ralph Bakshi, who wanted to direct a live-action film based on the novel. Bakshi had sought out the rights to the novel after completing Heavy Traffic, a film which shared many themes with Selby's novel. Selby agreed to the adaptation, and actor Robert De Niro accepted the role of Harry in Strike. According to Bakshi, "the whole thing fell apart when Krantz and I had a falling out over past business. It was a disappointment to me and Selby. Selby and I tried a few other screenplays after that on other subjects, but I could not shake Last Exit from my mind."[8] An adaptation was also considered by Stanley Kubrick and Brian de Palma at one point.[5]

German producer Bernd Eichinger and director Uli Edel had been wanting to adapt the novel for 20 years, with the latter having first discovered the novel as a university student.[9] The two filmmakers obtained the rights to Selby's novel in the mid-1980s after Edel's success with the film Christiane F.[9]

One of the challenges of adapting Selby's book was combining its different stories and characters into one film.[5][9] Screenwriter Desmond Nakano was brought on to pen the screenplay.[9]


Filming took place over 14 weeks in the summer of 1988[10] on location in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, "only blocks from the housing projects where Mr. Selby lived while writing Last Exit."[9]

Some scenes for the film were shot at Montero's Bar and Grill, which was owned by Pilar Montero and her husband.[11]



The film was first released in Europe in 1989, where it was a critical and a commercial success.[9] The film had a limited distribution in the United States in May 1990 after delays to its release date.[12] Some theaters, such as the Edwards theater in Orange County, declined to show the film because of its dark and graphic subject matter.[13]

Critical response[edit]

The film has a 67% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 critics' reviews.[14]

Though critics noted the film's unrelenting bleakness and how it is not an easy watch, Last Exit to Brooklyn was also praised for Uli Edel's direction and the performances of its actors.[7] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote the film "is both grim and eloquent. The strike scenes are some of the roughest ever seen in a fiction film."[4] Canby added the film "has a European sensibility that works to the advantage of its American subject matter...[and] sees everything at the distance of a sober-minded alien observer. One result is that 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' never appears to exploit its sensational subject matter."[4] He concluded the film "suggests that physical, social, psychological and political degradation can only be understood when seen in something like their true dimensions. Without hope."[4] In a review that awarded 3 and ½ stars out of four, Roger Ebert wrote the characters "are limited in their freedom to imagine greater happiness for themselves, and yet in their very misery they embody human striving. There is more of humanity in a prostitute trying to truly love, if only for a moment, than in all of the slow-motion romantic fantasies in the world."[7]

Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The strike-breaking attempt at the factory is Last Exit’s vast visual set-piece, a long and magnificently staged mass of moving bodies and machinery that shows Edel’s accomplished and painterly eye and the remarkable camera work of Stefan Czapsky."[5] Benson singled out Jennifer Jason Leigh as the "defiantly tragic Tralala, [Ohrbach’s] [sic] implacable union leader, Stephen Lang’s self-hating Harry Black and Alexis Arquette’s dry wit-over-desperation as Georgette" as the film's standout performances.[5]


For her role as Tralala in this film and her role in Miami Blues, Jennifer Jason Leigh won the award for Best Supporting Actress from both the New York Film Critics Circle[15] and the Boston Society of Film Critics.[16]

Home media[edit]

Last Exit to the Brooklyn was released on Blu-ray by Summit Entertainment in October 2011.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Last Exit to Brooklyn (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 22 September 1989. Archived from the original on 15 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  2. ^ Travers, Peter (4 May 1990). "Last Exit to Brooklyn". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Last Exit to Brooklyn". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e Canby, Vincent (2 May 1990). "A Brutal, Elegiac 'Last Exit,' Unrelieved by Hope". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Benson, Sheila (4 May 1990). "MOVIE REVIEW : A Brutal, Theatrical Mix Runs Through Edel's 'Last Exit to Brooklyn'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  6. ^ DePalma, Anthony (27 April 2004). "Hubert Selby Jr. Dies at 75; Wrote 'Last Exit to Brooklyn'". The New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (11 May 1990). "Last Exit to Brooklyn". Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  8. ^ "Last Exit to Brooklyn". AMC. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Sharkey, Betsy (29 April 1990). "FILM; No Escape from 'Last Exit' For the Director Uli Edel". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  10. ^ Weinstein, Steve (29 April 1990). "The Transformation of Jennifer Jason Leigh : Dark, problem-ridden characters have always held the most appeal--from 'Ridgemont High' to 'Last Exit to Brooklyn'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 18 September 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  11. ^ "Pilar Montero, Bar Owner and Link to a Seafaring Past, Dies at 90". The New York Times. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  12. ^ "'Exit' on Hold". Los Angeles Times. 17 December 1989. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (8 May 1990). "For Author, It Was a Long Road to 'Last Exit' : Movies: Brutal tale of life on the fringes was 25 years getting to the screen -- and is still controversial in Orange County". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  14. ^ "Last Exit to Brooklyn". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  15. ^ "'Goodfellas' Is No. 1 in Film Critics Vote". The New York Times. 19 December 1990. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  16. ^ "'Goodfellas' receives Boston critics awards". The Daily News. 11 January 1991. p. 5-B. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  17. ^ "Last Exit To Brooklyn". High-Def Digest. 10 October 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2022.

External links[edit]