Performance (1970) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A violent gangster seeks refuge from the mob in the Bohemian home of a former rock star.

  • Chas, a violent and psychotic East London gangster needs a place to lie low after a hit that should never have been carried out. He finds the perfect cover in the form of guest house run by the mysterious Mr. Turner, a one-time rock superstar, who is looking for the right spark to rekindle his faded talent.

  • Chas is an East London thug who works for gangster Harry Flowers and his associates (although they don't use the word gangster to describe themselves). Chas is generally sadistic in his nature and thus revels in his work. But his sadistic nature also pervades his personal life. As such, he will work on his own personal agenda outside of the work for Harry. It is in this vein that an encounter with Joey Maddocks, a man with whom Chas has a history, leads to Chas needing to hide out from Harry and his associates. Ultimately Chas feels he needs to clandestinely leave the country. In the meantime, he, based solely on a private conversation he overhears between strangers, manages to take refuge in the basement of a Notting Hill flat owned by a man named Turner, who lives there with two female companions named Pherber and Lucy. Chas considers their lifestyle bohemian and one of free love, which is outside of his mentality. Turner is an ex-rock musician who has lost his "demon" and thus his desire to be a performer. As Chas makes arrangements for his departure out of England, he gets caught up in Turner's lifestyle, Turner who is working on his own agenda in spending time with Chas.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Here it is for anyone who has often thought about what this movie is about. The first half hour or so is violence and general London villainy, until Chas arrives at the hippy house of Turner in Notting Hill Gate. Chas settles into his basement accommodation and participates in the magic mushroom fests that Turner provides.

    The movie begins its real plot at the the clip in the bedroom: 'Turner has been waiting for you for a long time' (immediately before Turner goes down the channel of Jorge Luis Borges into transformation as the Chairman of the Board where he says 'I like that, turn it up' and then sings the famous Performance song 'Memo from Turner'.)

    'Poor White Hound Dog' is sung here by Merry Clayton. Turner has lost his demon. OK, so far so good. And he's trying to decide whether he wants to get it back again. OK. Chas has Turner's demon and Turner knows this - that's the bottom line in this movie - and the plot is about the psychological morphing of Turner to become Chas - there is a further, secondary transformation of Turner in the bedroom, just before the end of the movie, where Turner says 'I want to come with you' and Chas says 'You don't know where I'm going, Pal' to which Turner replies 'I do'. He then realises the significance of what he has said and hides his face beneath the bedspread, saying 'No I don't' before Chas confirms the transaction with a 'Yeah you do', cocks his automatic and shoots Turner. The camera follows the bullet's path through Turner's head, ending with a brief portrait of Borges before exiting with an exterior shot of Chas/Turner being walked to Harry Flowers's Rolls Royce in a stunning transition.

    This is the point where Turner BECOMES Chas and that's why Jagger is in the Rolls Royce at the end of the movie - that is to say - the morphing transformation is complete - the demon has been found, identified and appropriated. Borges couldn't have written this story any better than the author of the book (William Hughes) and you may have noticed the book 'A Personal Anthology' by Jorge Luis Borges, twice in this movie, once when Rosie (the gangster) is reading it in the boardroom and the second time when Turner is reading from it ('The South') when he quotes 'They would not have allowed such things to happen to me in the sanitarium' before the book flies across the room onto the floor. Mm, well quite, mate.

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