Kris Kristofferson in title role makes an excellent formal acting debut as a faded and drug-busted rock star forced by corrupt cop Gene Hackman into selling marijuana. Well-written and directed by Bill L. Norton, the handsome Gerald Ayres production sustains a good plot while providing proper amounts of environmental color.
The weakest plot angle is Hackman’s motivation: not until the surprise climax is it made clear that he wants some extra money since police are underpaid. There’s a lot more breadth in that angle that writer Norton fails to make viable.
Principal supporting players include Karen Black in another Karen Black role as Pike’s amiable but confused girl; the totally delightful Viva; Harry Dean Stanton, excellent as Pike’s old partner, pitiably wasted on hard drugs; and Joy Bang, Viva’s cruising partner.
Kristofferson’s screen presence is very strong. There’s a look in his eyes – a combination of resignation, optimism and torture – that sticks in the memory long after the film has ended.