Going Home (1971): Mitchum Strikes

Synopsis: Fifteen years ago, Harry Graham (Robert Mitchum) murdered his wife in front of his three year old young son. Now, Harry is out of jail, and his eighteen year old son Jimmy (Jan-Michael Vincent) tracks him down for reasons that don't seem to even be known by Jimmy. As the two begin to know each other, Harry doesn't seem to know how to be father, despite putting in some effort, and Jimmy doesn't know if he wants to hug or stab his Dad.
Review: Going Home isn't an easy sell of a movie. Beginning with Mitchum’s character murdering his wife, it’s hard to feel sympathy for him. On the other hand, Vincent’s character is sullen and moody, not really the hero type either. Then again, this isn't a movie about heroes and villains. It’s about an unlikely relationship and the emotional scars that murder leaves on a family. It really boils down to a character study, and a somewhat haphazard one at that.

It is hard to say where the blame lies. Mitchum had just come out of retirement (and he claimed he signed the papers for the wrong film intending to star as a San Francisco jazz musician), and he’s as solid as ever, but the role of the son might have been neurons Vincent whose expressions range from blank to has to poop and back to blank. He does finally work up enough Oedipal rage to merit the Golden Globe for which he was nominated. Director Herbert Leonard definitely believed in the project, waving his fee entirely, but, as his second (and last) feature film, the material might have been too complex. The final blame may lay with the producers who cut 12 minutes from the film, reassembled it, dumped it into theaters for a week, and then pulled it into obscurity. This one is mostly for Mitchum fans.
Final Note: Mitchum’s character kills his wife with a bowling trophy, and then continues to talk to his grown son about bowling and going to bowling alleys. Ummm, insensitive much?
Rating: 5/10

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