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A teenage girl from Grand Rapids, Michigan, disappears in the course of a Christian youth junket to Knott's Berry Farm, and her father (George C. Scott, very good on the externals of a God-fearing Midwesterner) tracks her around the porno-prostitution circuit of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Writer-director Paul Schrader, ostensibly trying to somehow come to grips with his Calvinist roots and his current Hollywood residence, reduces the conflict between Old-time Religion and the Permissive Age to an action melodrama. Which would be okay, except that he seems to believe his basic story idea is so hot, cuts so close to the nerve center of modern man, and is so urgent in its telling, that it absolves him of the responsibility of working out the idea in dialogue and narrative incident. As is, the dialogue is hurried, forced, overcompressed, and badly recorded to boot; and the narrative events are flat and unformed, hardly events at all, but just "points of interest" on a guided tour that travels from Midwest paradise to West Coast hell. With Season Hubley and Peter Boyle. (1979) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R

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