Three Detroit auto plant workers - Zeke (Richard Pryor), Jerry (Harvey Keitel) and Smoke (Yaphet Kotto) - lead lives of debt and desperation, alleviated only by booze, parties, and the friendship they share. When they decide to rob the union that they're pretty sure is screwing them, they discover evidence of higher-level criminality than they could have imagined. And when they try to blackmail the union for a bigger payout, their hopes are dashed, and the dark side of the American Dream is slowly revealed.
As eager as your proprietor, a Paul Schrader booster, was to see this film, I was somewhat dreading the experience. As one of millions whose fortunes have rollercoastered (mostly downward) in this problematic economy, I've been both intrigued and a bit dismayed by what I'm calling the cinema of despondency: films that accurately depict the lives of everyday people caught in the kind of trying economy we're experiencing today. Some of these films have been rep classics, but a number of striking contemporary films have enjoyed a high profile (like WINTER'S BONE) or been boosted by A-list talent (such as Michael Douglas for SOLITARY MAN) to depict the lives of characters days away from homelessness with debtors on their heels. And as bracing as it's been to see such relatable and timely stories playing in theatres around the world, such stories can hit close to home and make one long for a little escapism. Going into BLUE COLLAR, I thought (classic heist/noir narrative notwithstanding) it'd be another depressing/despairing portrait of souls battered by a faltering economy.
Instead it was a bracing, angry polemic exposing the bullshit that rains on the working classes, and the management forces whose best interest is to keep them angry and divided. Even when the film goes from its more quietly observed first half to its overtly noirish second, it's speaking directly, and angrily,
After Glenn Beck's bullshit this weekend, shitting on the legacy of Martin Luther King to create a toxic and idiotic lie that will only deepen the divides that are sinking this country, Schrader and co. put that shit into perspective, advocating passionately for those being drowned. A wake-up call set 32 years prior. Stay angry.