Small in scale, grittily realistic, charged with a fierce intelligence about how people live on the other side of the law, the film makes few concessions to an audience's expectations, but it has an edgy, lingering intensity. [03 Apr 1978, p.91]
Straight Time is an exquistitely crafted film, loaded with good performances, propelled by excellent direction and brimming with heart-wrenching suspense. Unfortunately, it is also overwhelmingly depressing. [24 Mar 1978]
One yearns for a routine cops and robbers story, but Grosbard lingers with illusory impartiality over the technical details of the parole system, the problems of finding accommodation and work, and the nastiness of the backyard pool-and-barbecue life-style of riche America.
The script has first-rate, hardheaded, precise, sometimes funny dialogue, but it errs in bringing this girl too much to the center. Dramatically, the film lacks snap; there isn't enough tension in the way Max destroys his freedom, and so the story drags--it seems to have nowhere to go but down.
Straight Time is a most unlikeable film because Dustin Hoffman, starring as a paroled and longtime criminal, cannot overcome the essentially distasteful and increasingly unsympathetic elements in the character. Ulu Grosbard's sluggish direction doesn't help.