Tough-talking Gloria, Ex-mistress of a mob boss, reluctantly becomes the sole protector of a precocious six year-old Puerto Rican boy. John Cassavetes directs this 1980 mob film told from the perspective of an ex-mistress of a mob boss. In an apartment complex in the Bronx, Gloria Swenson (Gena Rowland) knocks on her neighbors Jeri (Julie Carmen) and Jack Dawn's (Buck Henry) door to borrow some sugar, but instead gets embroiled n the fate that ultimately leads to the family's death, gunned down by mobster goons. Jack is an accountant for the mob, and after he threatens to turn a mob boss over to the FBI, he and his family are gunned down, save for his six-year old son Phil, with whom he entrusts with the book that details the mob's illegal activities. Gloria, at the last minute, is co-opted to be the kid's guardian.
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The rest of the movie details Gloria and Phil's escape from goons conscripted to find the kid, take his ledger, and kill him. Gloria first takes him to an apartment she also rents in Manhattan (apparently used as a pad for her affair with the mob boss), but after she can secure some cash from the bank and is almost caught after a brief car chase, the two are on the run again. Finding refuge in a dingy pay-by-the-hour motel, Phil becomes enamored of his female guardian and confesses his love for her. Gloria is a no-nonsense gal and rebuffs the amorous advances of the six-year old.
After a contentious argument between precocious Phil and domineering Gloria, Phil decides to run away in a neighborhood that resembles Spanish Harlem. Gloria, temporarily relieved of being the boy's guardian, goes to a bar to have a drink. Phil is captured and is held up in an apartment that is obviously a front for prostitution. Gloria comes to her senses and leaves the bar to find him, and miraculously save Phil from a couple of goons, and the two make their way through the hellish landscape of urban New York City once again.
Boy and woman make it to what looks like a very seedy Penn Station, and again, escape capture. They take a train to Pittsburg, where it seems they are safe for a little bit.
Gloria leaves the boy in a hotel room, and gives him instructions on what to do in case she does not return.
In a last ditch effort to save Phil, it is revealed that the mob boss who is out to get Phil is no other than Gloria's ex-mistress. Gloria visits him in his swanky apartment to come to a truce.
Phil waits in a cemetery for the arrival of Gloria.
The movie ends with Gloria arriving at the cemetery (agreed on earlier to be the meet-up place) and she finds Phil is there waiting for her. Is Gloria dead and Phil is just fantasizing? It is tough to tell, but I'd like to think that Gloria survived the mafia onslaught.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the idea of a woman outsmarting the mob.
Best scene in story:
I thought Phil trying to seduce Gloria was hilarious. He really tries to win her over, but she is such a no-nonsense gal, it is funny to watch how even though she was reluctant to help in the first place, she begins to grow found of Phil, and eventually helps him out not out of self-interest, but what appears to be love.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Gloria's no-nonsense attitude, but I thought it was too convenient that she ends up being the ex-mistress of the very same mob boss who is out to catch and kill Jack Dawn's family.