Ben Hibburd’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before I start this review let me preface it by saying that this film has the worst movie poster I have ever seen. It’s dull and misleading, I went into the film half expecting a slapstick comedy. The poster does a massive disservice to the film because this is one of the best American films from the 1970’s.
Blue Collar is a film that follows three average workers Zeke (Richard Pryor), Jerry (Harvey Keitel) and Smokey (Yaphet Kotto), as they spend their days slaving away at a car manufacturing plant. Undervalued and underappreciated they start to become disillusioned with their lives as they're constantly being screwed over by “the man”, that is until one night Zeke proposes they turn over their local Union office where $5000 is currently held. With mounting debts and bills to pay the three friends agree to steal what is essentially their own money back.
All three of the films leads give terrific performances, but it is Richard Pryor’s Zeke who stands out as the best performer he gives a memorable performance as the quick witted, sympathetic family man who’s doing everything to support his family. Harvey Keitel is essentially the straight man of the film, he’s convincing as the worker who believes his hard work will pay off and get him ahead one day, only for that day to never come. And Yaphet Kotto is funny and engaging as the free spirited Smokey.
Whilst the film is supported by excellent central performances the strength of the film comes from Paul Schrader’s fantastic screenplay. It’s raw, angry, funny, tense and most importantly has a message to say about the state of American workers in the late 70’s. The films paced perfectly with events unfolding naturally and every character is fully fleshed out.
Schrader also does a wonderful job behind the camera, he’s able to mix up the tone of the film with consummate ease. From scenes featuring a character beating up a vending machine to a character being followed and potentially killed, the film is able switch up it’s tone stylistically without ever losing its realism or my interest. The film also has a wonderful score to boot. In the end Blue Collar is one of the best American films of the 1970’s and a film that seems to have been slightly forgotten. Don’t let the lame poster fool you Blue Collar is a masterpiece waiting to be rediscovered again.