I'll start by saying that this is by no means a masterpiece. It's very flawed with quite large plotholes and very visible mistakes. But don't let this turn you off of this film because it really is one of the most entertaining films of the 80s. John Cassavetes always makes good movies and with this he doesn't disappoint. His unique style of filmmaking is what makes him so extraordinary, but with this movie I felt that he hollywoodized it a little bit more than it should have been.
Gena Rowlands is absolutely brilliant in her role as the ass-kicking, mob-killing, tough-talking, car-tipping heroine Gloria Swenson. She is the perfect protagonist: a middle-aged woman who has a heavy criminal record is protecting a six-year-old Puerto Rican boy who has lost his family to a mob killing. She hides him from the mob, but finally gives up hiding when things get serious. She fights back with a vengeance because no one shoots at Gloria and gets away with it. Gena Rowlands, in one of the best performances of the 80s, was nominated for Best Actress in 1980 (losing to Sissy Spacek for Coal Miner's Daughter).
Unlike Cassavetes previous films (Rosemary's Baby, A Woman Under the Influence, Faces) this is going against the grain of independent and arthouse cinema and making a true Hollywood picture. No matter, Cassavetes still pulls off what is a great movie. He only made this movie, he said, so his wife (Rowlands) could have a great and independent character to play. I'm glad he did, though, because Rowlands shines in her role.
The ending left me a little uneasy, though. I wish it would have ended differently. I won't spoil it for anyone, but it should have ended with two more casualties. That's all I will say. The screenplay is no more than average. It's interesting and a little original, but what makes it memorable is the strong lead character (Gloria).
John Adames plays the child and is almost unwatchable in some scenes, but for the most part he holds his own. For his first acting job he did ok. I won't patronize him, but he did mess up many of times and it was quite evident in the film. But other than that, he did a fair job.
So overall, the film is 'good', but Gena Rowlands performance is sensational, brilliant, superb, out of this world... I can't keep going or else I will run out of page room. She makes this movie and having said that, I recommend you all to see it mainly for her performance alone. Enjoy.