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At Close Range

R 1986 | Drama
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Based on a true story, this drama tells of troubled teen Brad Whitewood, Jr. (Sean Penn) - the eldest son of a ruthless suburban Pennsylvania crime lord (Christopher Walken). Disillusioned and impressionable, Brad, Jr. and his pals (including his real-life/on-screen brother Chris Penn) experiment with taking up the family business - a.k.a. stealing tractors. But when the boys get caught, dear old dad panics and does what any ruthless crime lord would do - he silences them the old fashioned way - resulting in a tragic trail of blood and betrayal. It's bleak and brutal but worth a watch as Penn and Walken are at the top of their game, delivering powerful performances that'll leave you with chills up your spine and a pit in your stomach.

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Top 10 Fun Facts

  1. The role of Chris and Sean Penn's grandmother is played by actress Eileen Ryan, who is their real life mother. Guess they couldn't get the real life grandmother to play the grandmother. She must have a pretty high asking price.
  2. At Close Range is actually a true story - Brad Whitewood Sr. is based on Bruce Johnston Sr., a gangleader in Chester County, PA during the 1960s-70s. The gang ended when Brad Whitewood Jr. testified against his father. That's the kind of father-son relationship every therapist dreams of.
  3. Robert De Niro was the original choice for Brad Whitewood Sr., but De Niro turned it down - he thought the character was too dark. Gang leader, rapist, murderer... can't imagine why he would think that.
  4. Originally, after Brad Sr. and Brad Jr. "do laundry," they were supposed to go to a whorehouse. Screenwriter Nicholas Kazan said that they dropped the scene due to "reasons beyond his control." I'm not sure what that means, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to.
  5. "Live to Tell" by Sean Penn's then-wife Madonna was on the soundtrack for At Close Range and went to #1 on the Billboard Charts. As an added bonus, they got to rub their success in the nose of the filmmakers who turned down "Live to Tell" for the soundtrack of the film Fire with Fire. As if Madonna's career wasn't payback enough.
  6. When you see that terrified look on Christopher Walken's face during the scene where Sean Penn sticks a gun in his face, that's not just good acting - he's actually terrified. Usually, Walken made sure to check each gun used in his scenes before filming for safety purposes. But right before they shot this particular scene, Penn grabbed a different gun that Walken hadn't checked. I would probably be terrified too, especially given Penn's anger management issues.
  7. Talk about accuracy: one of the filming locations of At Close Range was on Cossart Road - the actual road where Bruce Johnston Sr. buried three of his murder victims. That must have been one creepy shoot.
  8. Not only is Madonna's song "Live to Tell" on the soundtrack to At Close Range, but scenes from the movie are also in the music video. And to further intertwine these people, Christopher Walken appears in Madonna's "Bad Girl" video, and director James Foley would later direct her in the film Who's That Girl. Can anyone say Six Degrees of Madonna?
  9. At the end of the film, the assistant DA is played by director James Foley. He originally considered playing the role of the DA, but he thought it was "too dark." Then he talked with the lighting designer and it turned into this whole thing, it's way too involved to get into here.
  10. In what many describe as a continuity error, the shotgun pellet wounds on Sean Penn's face disappear almost immediately and leave no scars. But in reality, Sean Penn is just that good of an actor. He just wishes them away and - poof!