The Best of Dustin Hoffman: 20 Essential Roles

From 'The Graduate' to 'The Simpsons,' looking back on the best of the actor's big-screen and small-screen work

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'Straight Time' (1978)

Fresh out of prison, Max Dembo wants to leave his past behind him and lead a normal, square life. But thanks to his shitheel of a parole officer, social prejudices against ex-cons and the lure of going to back to what he knows best, our man is destined to fond himself liberating cash registers and falling back into less-than-legal endeavors. Anyone familiar with felon-turned-screenwriter/novelist (and future Reservoir Dog "Mr. Blue") Eddie Bunker's semi-autobiographical source material No Beast So Fierce probably wouldn't picture Hoffman as the book's hardened career criminal. Which, frankly, only makes his work here that more impressive, with the actor playing up the part's feral, more fatalistic aspects: Dembo can't catch a break, and other than Theresa Russell's understanding girlfriend, he's got nothing going for him. Hoffman lets you feel the frustration, the feeling that the deck is stacked against him – and then gives you the moment that Max simply gives in to his fate. Not even that mustache can distract you from what he's pulling off here.

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