The Incident

The Incident ★★★½

This post Kitty Genovese murder (1964) and pre-Bernie Goetz vigilantism (1984) take on NYC urban dread and bystander indifference is a rather stark and mean affair. The black and white, low-budget, gritty location shot elements of it all is suggestive of NY set 60s films like Blast of Silence, Something Wild, The Young Savages (all 1961), The Pawnbroker (1964), or even the British made subway car set Dutchman from the same year. One on-line commentator suggested the film is strange cross between 12 Angry Men and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and that’s a pretty apt comparative. The film’s set-up is simple; a (stereotypical) cross-section of society is terrorized by a pair of sadistic thugs on a late night Manhattan subway ride from hell, and show little resolve in defusing the situation. While the plot reeks of a schematic, the ACTING is theatrically overwrought (particularly from the thugs played by Tony Musante and Martin Sheen in the earliest days of their careers) and most of the character decision making (or, more accurately, lack thereof) beggars belief, the direction and terrific cast of film veterans (like Thelma Ritter and Jan Sterling) and newcomers (like Beau Bridges and future nighttime TV soap queen Donna Mills) somehow sell it all in a rather riveting package. One can see how the passengers symbolic paralysis against the criminals in this film (see also the earlier home invasion film Lady in a Cage or the left coast variation Private Property) would lead to the base, but satisfying, catharsis in the vigilante cycle of films of the 70s, be them urban (Death Wish) or rural (Walking Tall). If you can handle the heavy handedness, this is one of the more compelling time capsule films of the era.

Scott liked this review