After whatever Flaming Creatures was, and because it ended up being a bit of a grey afternoon, I fancied something that was close to a crime drama and wasn’t incredibly long. Atlantic City fit the bill perfectly at around 100 minutes long and in having bit players in the local New Jersey crime world as minor characters.
It’s a bit odd to have seen this so soon after Sweet Smell of Success, the passage of time being very clear on Burt Lancaster. 23 years later and rather than playing a ruthless and socially successful columnist, here he is as a pretty much retired petty gangster clinging to any semblance of reputation he has… whilst perving on his next door neighbour as she bathes herself in lemon juice to deal with the smell of working in an oyster bar.
Having Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon play opposite each other as, essentially, love interests (although it’s more a fondness rather than lust on her side) is a bit weird considering the age gap and that she is pretty much okay with him having watched her be naked – but you kinda so with it because the city isn’t exactly portrayed as unseedy and she is basically taking advantage of the situation of having this older man help her out. Also, he is a real step up from her deadbeat husband that ran off with her sister.
It’s weird seeing Atlantic City knowing that Malle was vaguely related to the French New Wave movement, and having seen him tackle very different stories in Murmur of the Heart and Au Revoir Les Enfants. In the end though, this is very unlike the more neo-noir style crime films of the time. This isn’t moody like Chinatown or overblown like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, this is a profoundly human story that has some crime elements alongside talk of reflexology, reincarnation and how to become a croupier.