Despite a Tom Stoppard script and diligent direction, EL Doctorow's novel about a youngster's experience of the life and times of Dutch Schultz seldom takes off as a movie. An early scene, in which the gangster (Hoffman) sees 16-year-old Billy (Dean) juggling balls high above the street on a railway bridge, catches the magic realism of the novel, but little else does. Schultz, past his peak and awaiting trial, is a changeable mixture of the kindly and the murderous, but Hoffman's performance seems to be based on Arturo Ui, and his voice sounds as if it has been dredged up from the river, along with the corpse of Bo (Willis), first encountered with his feet in a bucket of cement. Dutch's mistress (Kidman), a society woman slumming, takes a shine to Billy, and their affair provides some necessary development to relationships within the gang. The best performance comes from Steven Hill as Otto, the gangster's faithful retainer, and although Dean is OK as the kid with luck, the role of talisman doesn't play on film.
Cast and crew