Paul Schrader grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in a milieu of strict Calvinism. Ditto my parents, and, to a lesser extent, yours truly. My father knew Schrader in college, and I’m told I met the man, but I was still in my crib at the time. Schrader long ago shook the dust from his feet and left West Michigan, but it’s never really left him; his films, including this one, have always displayed a queasy fascination with depravity and a deep skepticism that morality or integrity stand a chance in this bad ol’ world. “Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” Schrader wrote that. He didn’t believe it.
There’s some fine acting here, by a superlative cast, but much like all those church services back in Michigan, the movie’s too long and dour. Probably of interest only to native sons and daughters like me, who like to keep up with our own.