Picks and Pans Review: On the Nickel

updated 06/02/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/1980 01:00AM

Ralph (Dad Walton) Waite cast himself aptly here as a down-and-outer on Los Angeles' Skid Row. A recovered alcoholic offscreen, he lends a deeply felt performance to an otherwise slim story. It's about a reformed wino (Donald Moffat) who is having trouble adjusting to life on the wagon. He finds himself inexorably drawn back to "the Nickel," L.A.'s Bowery, by concern for a dying friend (Waite). Produced, directed and written by Waite, this intensely personal statement evinces his empathy for the derelicts. Yet the film is painful to endure—not only because the winos are portrayed as such a wretched lot but also because the pace is dreadfully slow. Only in its final scenes does it come to life. Though an affecting title tune sung by raspy-voiced Tom Waits frames the film perfectly, it is not a telling work. (R)

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