April 14, 1980 12:00 PM

This film was getting bad reviews even before it opened. Worse yet, they were emanating from its director, James Caan, who was miffed at MGM over its shooting instructions and the editing of the movie. The release was postponed eight months. It wasn’t worth the wait. This is a “dramatization of a true story” about the Witness Relocation Program, first implemented in 1967 when a small-time Buffalo hoodlum turned state’s evidence against a pair of crime bosses and was given a new identity. Spencer Eastman’s screenplay concentrates on factory worker Thomas Hacklin, whose ex-wife runs off with the informer, taking Hacklin’s two kids. Caan is affecting as a man of limited education battling against a stonewall bureaucracy; Jill Eikenberry is appealing as his new girl and Robert Viharo is perfectly cast as the hood. Caan shot the film in Buffalo—often in the same places where events unfolded 13 years ago. But his directorial debut is marred because the film lacks both the immediacy of a documentary and the inventiveness of fiction. (PG)

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