In underworld terms, Chas Devlin is a "performer", a gangster with a talent for violence and intimidation. Turner is a reclusive rock superstar. When Chas and Turner meet, their worlds collide - and the impact is both exotic and explosive. James Fox and Mick Jagger indelibly play Chas and Turner in this spellbinder of illusion and reality, decadence and decay. Fugitive Chas hides in Turner's cavernous house. Events then spiral into an eerie breakdown of barriers and roles in which Chas sees his sense of reality vanish. And Turner's experiment of self-discovery leads to a shocking, final performance of his own.
Performance has gained a reputation as a classic British gangster film but really it is a modernist work about identity. The performers, particularly James Fox (Chas) and Mick Jagger (Turner) change under each other's influence, and their sexuality blurs. Performance owes much more to Ingmar Bergman's Persona than it does to the Krays, violent though it is. Donald Cammell wrote the quotable script under the influence of Joe Orton, full of cheeky, threatening non-sequiturs. Nicolas Roeg was responsible for the head-movie visuals which I think are the main attraction, the film increasing representing an acid trip, including the scenes played backwards and the strong colour themes. Warner Brothers apparently thought they were getting The Rolling Stones' version of a Hard Day's Night and were shocked by the sexual content and how grimy it all looked and shelved it for two years. It has become a cult favourite, better known as years go by.