STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 105 Minutes
• New Featurette: Influence and Controversy
• Vintage Featurette: Memo from Turner
• Theatrical Trailer

The Pitch

“You interested in seeing Mick Jagger’s balls? Then this is the film for you!”

The Humans

James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton

The Nutshell

Chas is a gangster with…let’s just say “issues.” His hot temper and somewhat unconventional habits put him at odds with his bosses, who put a hit out on his life. Chas goes on the run, seeking refuge in rocker Turner’s home. But after a couple of days, Chas is gonna wish he was dead.

Because there’s some bad brown acid going around, man. And while I probably wouldn’t take it, it’s Chas’ trip, man…

I never understood why the "Cock-Cam" never caught on. Ooh, three "C" words in a row! I sound like Peter Travers!

The Lowdown

Performance is completely, unapologetically, bat-shit crazy. That’s about as honest an assessment of the film as I can give, and, honestly, it’s the closest I’ll get to understanding what the hell is going on here. To say nothing makes sense here is the mother of all understatements; that’s assuming that sense ever factored into the world of Performance, which it most certainly did not. This is cinema created by lunatics, starring madmen.

I had a fucking blast with it.

I’m a bit stuck on how to approach this review. You can’t judge Performance like you would a normal movie because Performance is pretty fucking far from normal. I guess the plot seems normal: Chas (James Fox), a British mob enforcer, gets in dutch with his bosses, and he’s forced to hide in the crumbling mansion of a has-been rocker (Mick Jagger). Not too odd. Hell, switch up England for New York and James Fox for Whoopi Goldberg, and you’ve got Sister Act!

Here’s the thing, though: I doubt Sister Act would include a lesbian three-way between Whoopi, Kathy Najimy, and Dame Maggie Smith. Performance, on the other hand, has a full-on make-out session between Fox and Jagger. You tell me which one sounds better.

None of this plays out coherently. You might think the mob stuff would be easy to follow. You would be wrong. Directors Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg intercut bizarre images of sex, violence, and Mick Jagger during these scenes, especially if they’re at odds with the action on-screen. This leaves the viewer wholly confused and unsteady; if we can’t get a bead on this stereotypical-seeming gangster bit, how are we gonna fare for the rest of the flick? That’s the genius of the film. Cammell and Roeg intentionally disorient us early on during the stock stuff to acclimate us to the weirdness that’s gonna ensue when Fox hooks up (in both senses of the word) with Jagger. It’s as though they’re saying, “Don’t get too comfortable ‘cause it’ll fuck with you even more later if you do. Actually, we’re gonna fuck with you anyways, so cheerio!”

Proof that Anita Pallenberg could single-handedly make Batman Forever watchable.

Oh my, do they ever.

The last hour of the film’s a complete ‘60s head-trip. You got strobe lights, undulating colors, and bizarre synthesizer music. You got rampant and unsentimental drug use. You got wholly gratuitous (and by “gratuitous,” I mean, “completely and utterly essential to the plot and to my overall enjoyment of the film”) nudity, both male and female. You got Anita Pallenberg, who I am now officially obsessed with, providing a good bit of that aforementioned skin. Throw in all sorts of random literary references, allusions to Jagger’s actual career in the Rolling Stones, enough changing film stocks to make Oliver Stone cream his jeans, and an ending that’s either utterly brilliant or utterly retarded, depending on when you dropped the acid tab that comes with the DVD, and you’ve got a movie that couldn’t exist as anything BUT a cult classic. It may make zero sense. It may get bogged down with all that ‘60s paraphernalia to tell a lucid story about the odd symbiosis between the mobster and the rocker. It may have a score by Randy fucking Newman. It may even mistakenly confuse unwarranted and unexplained madness for narrative thrust. This is definitely not a perfect movie.

But as Jagger’s Turner says, “The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness.”

Mission accomplished, fellas.

Jagger ReachAround 4000 engaged.

The Package

At times it’s hard to judge the actual quality of the picture as Cammell and Roeg are dead-set in experimenting (sometimes unpleasantly so) with the image. Still, during those fleeting moments when all seems normal, the picture looks razor-sharp and damn good for one its age. The sound, likewise, has a lot of auditory jazz going on, but it’s gotta be for effect, and can sound really robust when it wants to. The package art is a modified version of the poster, keeping the Mick Jagger images and dropping the James Fox ones. Good if you’re Jagger, shame if you’re James Fox…

I get the sense that we could have gotten so much more in the features department. The trailer’s pretty cool, as it’s blatantly R-rated and just as odd as the film. The Memo from Turner featurette is just a glorified version of the scene from the film, with some EPK elements and deletion of the word “faggy.” In the film, I thought it unnecessary, a way to capitalize on Jagger the Musician. It’s even more useless here. I was really disappointed by the Influence and Controversy feature. Not only are Jagger, Fox, and Roeg all AWOL, but here’s a movie dripping with a sordid history that the documentary doesn’t begin to examine. Allegedly, Fox’s experiences on set caused him to have a mental breakdown and retire from acting for fifteen years. When Cammell killed himself in 1996, his self-documentation of the event (I am not making this up) revealed a startling connection with the most infamous scene in this film. And man, this is the film where Jagger and Pallenberg fell in love, or maybe Mick just starting fucking her to piss off her then-lover Keith Richards. I wanna see a documentary elaborating on that stuff! We get none of that here. There’s some interesting bits on the editing done to salvage the film after some disastrous test screenings, and it’s jarring to see how badly Pallenberg has aged, but we don’t get anything truly juicy about the making.

I enjoyed this film a great deal; I think if I did drugs, it might be my favorite film of all time, but as it stands, it’s just a fun, honest-to-God cult pleasure. But while the picture and sound are great, the special features are regrettably skimpy. That’ll cost this bad boy points. Let’s go with:

I guaran-fucking-tee you working on this movie traumatized this kid for life.

6.5 out of 10