Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto play three Detroit car-factory workers disillusioned with both company exploitation and their union’s ineffectiveness. When they discover the union’s illegal ties to organised crime they hatch a plan to improve their lot, but discover that social mobility is never easily won.
Paul Schrader’s directorial debut is a notable film many ways, not least for being one of the few Hollywood films to tackle the issue of industrial relations. Schrader’s sense for the milieu makes it one of the great, gritty 1970s movies. But it’s Pryor’s lead performance that’s a revelation: in his first lead role he plays it relatively straight, carrying the dramatic story while also adding the occasional comic touch. It established Pryor as a bankable star who could deliver a credible performance and, crucially, carry a movie.