An assassin is on the run from his mob boss and decides to take refuge in a run-down mansion owned by a reclusive rock star. Chas (James Fox) is an enforcer for a crime boss named Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon), who rules London's East End. Chas is an incredibly ruthless and violent man--a man's man-- who uses intimidation and torture in order to collects debts owed to his boss. One day Chas pays a visit to a man named Joey Maddocks, whose betting shop has just been absorbed by Flowers, in order to collect a debt. Flowers has already warned Chas off of seeing Maddocks, as they have bad blood between, but Chas disregards Flowers and ransacks the place. Maddocks, in turn, pays Chas a visit at his apartment where they get into a violent fight--one that ends in Chas becoming the victim in a psycho-sexual act of humiliation. Chas finds his gun and kills Maddocks and his men. This act sets off Flowers, who tells Chas that he's on his own--he will receive no protection. Chas realizes that he's a wanted man; that Flowers is going to find and kill him, so he takes off. After disguising himself by dying his hair with a bucket of red paint he phones a friend and tries to book passage to America. He's told that it will take a while, so Chas goes for a coffee. He overhears a musician in the cafe telling his mother about this weird place where he lives: a run-down mansion owned by a reclusive rock star named Turner (Mick Jagger). Chas learns that the musician is also going on tour for a month. Chas arrives at the Turner mansion, claiming to be "Johnny Dean." friend of the musician and wanting to rent his room.
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Chas is greeted at the door by Pherber (Anita Pallenberg), Turner's lover. She immediately begins to play psycho head games with him, which confuses the macho Chas--a feeling compounded when he befriends a girl named Lucy (who is either a midget or a very mature child). Chas wants only to hide out for a while, until the heat is off, but Pherber (and later, Turner) refuse to play his game and, instead induce him into playing theirs--one that involves drugs and bi-sexual sex. At first Chas has nothing but disdain for Turner and Pherber and their "sick lifestyle," but after they fed him a dose of psychedelic mushrooms they begin to break down his inhibitions, to go beneath his macho exterior, revealing his true self. It is obvious that Turner is drawn to Chas' violent world, and Chas to Turner's free one, and the pair soon become involved in a psychological (and possibly sexual, it is unclear) relationship full of poetry and violence.
Chas slowly sheds his macho exterior and begins a relationship with Lucy and Pherber. But Flowers' men have tracked him down and they want his blood. As they search the house we (the audience) see Turner dead in a cupboard - but is he? At this point the identities of Turner and Chas have become so blurred that when Flowers' men finally drag "Chas" away, we (the audience) are treated to a shot of Turner in the car and not Chas, so it is unclear if they have the wrong man or if the two men have truly become one.
Best part of story, including ending:
Aside from being the prototype for nearly every British gangster film after 1970 (i.e. Ritchie et al), Performance deals with issues beyond just money and violence; philosophy and questions of identity.
Best scene in story:
Turner reads aloud from a book about ancient assassins, called hashashins, in order to learn about them.
Opinion about the main character:
Chas begins as a disgusting macho animal who transforms into a free-minded person.