John Schlesinger's gritty, unrelentingly bleak look at the seedy underbelly of urban American life is undeniably disturbing, but Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight's performances make it difficult to turn away.
Voight's absurd stud is a drop-out trying to drop-in, a deprived semi-adult whose muscular good looks he rightly assumes to be the only possible passport to success. But at least he is better off than Ratso (Hoffman), a sleazy little Bronx pickpocket who first cons and then befriends him.
The two are shown to be in desperate need of each other, and it is a superbly observed relationship not only because this is so, but because the hideous hollowness of the world they battle with is so clearly painted as well. We can identify with them without false sentimentality and it is impossible not to do so.