Two-time Academy Award(R)-winner Dustin Hoffman (Best Actor -- KRAMER VS. KRAMER, 1979; RAIN MAN, 1988) stars in the action-packed gangster epic detailing the rise and fall of notorious mobster Dutch Schultz as seen throug... more »h the eyes of his young protege, Billy Bathgate. Billy, an ambitious streetwise kid seduced by the power, money, and glamour of crime, soon begins to seriously question if his passport to the good life is going to come from the fiery Dutch and his gang! Critically acclaimed and co-starring Bruce Willis (ARMEGEDDON) and Nicole Kidman (MOULIN ROUGE), BILLY BATHGATE delivers motion picture excitement you won't want to miss!« less
""Billy Bathgate" had the misfortune to be released the year after "Goodfellas", Scorsese's great gangster film which revived interest in the genre. True, "Billy Bathgate" is also about gangsters, but if you know the works of its director, Robert Benton, and those of Scorsese, you know they are not similar directors at all. While both men are fascinated by interesting characters, Benton is more intellectual and less visceral. Even in his most famous early screenplay, "Bonnie and Clyde", the characters spend a surprising amount of time sitting around and talking prior to the movie's infamous and violent climax. So, "Billy Bathgate" does not provide as much action or as many gut level situations as a typical gangster film. What is has is great atmosphere, a literate script by Tom Stoppard, brilliant cinematography by Nestor Almendros, and some interesting performances. Billy [Loren Dean] is a bright kid growing up in New York in the 1930s. The son of impoverished immigrants, he is getting most of his education in the streets. In his neighborhood, the heroes are gangsters like Dutch Shultz [Dustin Hoffman] and his men because they represent a way to climb out of poverty and to earn respect. One day Billy catches Shultz's eye and is soon working for him. The kid's not violent but he witnesses many acts of violence. These obviously unnerve him, but the lure of a fast buck is strong. Things get complicated when he is put in charge of looking after a rich society dame [Nicole Kidman], who has a sham marriage to a gay but powerful New Yorker. She gets her kicks by dating gangsters. She's in terrible danger because of something she saw, but she doesn't seem to be aware of it, though Billy is. He's also aware that she's the most beautiful and desirable woman he's ever met. I thought the movie was interesting and well done. I can see why others might find it too slow and talky. It has an elegance and a dignity that is somewhat at odds with its subject matter, but I found this contradiction fascinating. I also enjoyed watching Ms. Kidman in a role that predates both her American stardom and her years as Mrs. Tom Cruise. No one at the time was aware of the phenomenon she would later become, but looking at her from a decade's distance, all the signs are plainly there."
Billy Bathgate--Cinema's Quiet Godfather
Fred Sherrill | New York, New york USA | 07/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Billy Bathgate" charts the seemingly charmed path of a resourceful street kid (Loren Dean) who latches on to the Dutch Shultz gang in Dewey-era New York City. Shultz (Dustin Hoffman) has a gang which has seen the zenith of its power; its fighting to hold his place in a world where Irish and Italian politicians and mobsters are on the ascendancy. The movie opens with an initial act of betrayal, and the moll (Nicole Kidman) is thrust upon both the man and the boy. The movie is blessed with strong performances by secondary characters played by Steven Hill, Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, and a number of other actors whose faces you know but might not be able to name.
Since seeing this movie originally at the theatre and several times on cable tv, I've wondered why it didn't have a bigger following. I'll offer up a few reasons, all of which may explain why a great and touching movie is under-appreciated. First, the ostensible lead character--Loren Dean's Billy--is not really the lead character, he's the witness (and possible catalyst) to the arc of the Shultz gang; Mr Dean, who's turned out to be a terrific and underutilized character actor, alas, does not seemed to have had the kind of star power to give the movie a higher profile. The film's erstwhile "star", Dustin Hoffman, plays a character that doesn't have the dominating screen time to make this his story or the film Hoffman's. Finally, the film doesn't really follow the standard arc of a Hollywood hero's journey: the Shultz gang is on the decline, and its not clear that the boy is on the ascent.
This is a quieter version of Mob-America and yet to me otherwise like the Godfather not a single frame is wasted, and the direction is flawless. I hope you like it."
A Big, Expansive, Violent Gangster Story
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 06/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Based on IMDb, I'm evidently one of the few people, critics or public, who likes this movie. It's got some flaws, but on balance I think it tells an intriguing story, has a great look and features some first class performances. It also, admitedly, comes to a slow walk in the last third of the movie and only barely recovers.
Billy Bathgate (Loren Dean) is a young kid, not quite a punk, who is ambitious and wants to make money. The easiest way is to become a gangster, and he figures out a way to be noticed by Dutch Schultz (Dustin Hoffman). The movie is told from Billy's perspective, but it's dominated by Schultz's cunning, violence and loss of power. Dutch Schultz controls the numbers racket, liquor and gambling. He has judges in his pocket with bribes. He has never had anything pinned on him, but now he's facing a tax evasion rap. He moves upstate to find a friendly jury. Although he beats the rap, the prosecutors won't stop coming at him. And more and more of his fellow sharks are circling closer as they realize that one way or another Schultz is becoming history. When he loses the confidence of Lucky Lucciano, his career comes to a violent halt. Billy survives, barely.
Hoffman, in my view, gives a fine performance of a cunning, uneducated, suspicious and violent gangster. Schultz's way of dealing with a problem is to eliminate it as directly as possible. He's unpredictable; he may pat your face one minute and put a bullet through your open mouth the next. Steven Hill as Otto Berman, Schultz' long time operations manager and money man, gives an outstanding performance. Berman is getting a little old and tired, but he remains loyal to Schultz. Make no mistake; he's just as much a crook as Schultz. He develops a liking for Billy that saves Billy's life. Others who come up with compelling turns are Stanley Tucci as Luciano, as fascinating and calculating as a snake; Steve Buscemi as one of Schultz' hoods who does what he's told, Nicole Kidman as a society dame who seems to love the rough stuff and the danger and who gets in beyond her depth; Timothy Jerome as Dixie Davis, Schultz' slimy, dishonest and betraying lawyer, Bruce Willis as Bo Weinberg, Schultz's second-in-command, who makes the mistake of looking out for his own interests. Loren Dean does an okay job, in my view, as Billy. He's not a compelling actor, but neither is the character. Billy is an observer for the most part.
It's the last part of the movie that's problematic. A good deal of time is spent rather humorlessly in a small town in upstate New York as Schultz and Berman go about trying to buy their way into the town's -- and the potential jury members' -- good graces. There's a bit of bracing violence, but too much exposition. And then the extended sequence in Saratoga with Kidman and Dean, and the growing danger to Kidman, kicks in...and it just seems long.
On balance, though, I can watch this movie with pleasure...probably because of the style, the story line and Steven Hill's performance. There are no extras. The DVD picture looks just fine to me."
Jewish Mafia before today's Brighton Beach Russians
LF | USA | 07/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before I give my review I just want to point out that the Plot Summaries on this website are inaccurate. It is not about Billy Bathgate hooking up with a fledgling Dutch Schultz, and it is not about Billy Bathgate becoming Dutch Schultz's right hand man. Schultz was already a superstar, a very wealthy man, when Billy met him, and Billy never became anything close to Dutch's right hand man.
With all the movies available that are weak for one reason or another, it was a pleasure to find this one. I suspected that it would be good when I saw that Dustin Hoffman was the star, and it was also a plus that Bruce Willis was a co-star. Willis is listed as having a cameo appearance, but it's much more than that.
The movie is about the Jewish Mafia in New York City in the 1930s. Hoffman is Dutch Schultz (A pseudonym for a Jewish mobster) and Willis is the gangster Moe Weinberg, who worked with Schultz.
In this story Schultz is the head of the Jewish Mafia but he is losing his grip as the FBI prosecutes him for tax evasion and mobsters Moe Weinberg and Lucky Luciano turn against him, believing that he's losing his touch and needs to be gotten rid of, that he has become more trouble than he's worth.
Billy Bathgate is a kid from the Bronx who is thrilled to be noticed by wealthy Mr Schultz during the Depression. Billy is hired by him.
Very early in the film it appears that Moe Weinberg is about to be executed by Schultz for betrayal, and that Moe's girlfriend Mrs Drew Preston (Nicole Kidman) is of interest to Schultz. Dutch makes her a proposition, testing her love for Moe. Moe cares for Mrs Preston more than she does for him, but the one she really takes a liking to is Billy Bathgate. She seems to like Billy even more than she likes her own husband. Yes, she's married, though she is playing around with all these mobsters. Her husband is probably gay, tolerating her absence, yet remaining fond of her and protective of her. He is a rich man.
The movie has us worrying first over Moe Weinberg, whether he will be executed by Schultz. Then it has us involved in Dutch Schultz's court case for tax evasion, perhaps rooting for Dutch, perhaps not. Then it has us concerned about whether Dutch is going to murder Mrs Preston. Finally it has us worried whether Billy will get out alive or will be killed by either Dutch Schultz or Lucky Luciano. Some of the characters make it to the end of the movie alive and some don't.
I considered giving it five stars but it doesn't have any strong emotional punch to it, and four stars sounds about right. It is definitely a worthwhile movie. Don't miss it."
Good effort, historical feel, nostalgia
Pork Chop | Lisbon, Portugal | 08/01/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"BILLY BATHGATE (1991) revisits the events of a Post-Prohibition America, from a nostalgia, romantic, glossy intentional perspective, taking the actual events that happened, reversing them 180 degrees, especially the overwhelming brutality, violence, ruthless gangwars, and street rubouts, preferring mostly a fantasy of a boy who is a morale booster and apprentice of an aging, lead gangster, played magnificently by Dustin Hoffman. The audience relives the experience of that impoverished working class boy of Irish descent, who evolves into a grown man, from both his career experience in that underground organization and his intimate relationship with the character played by Nicole Kidman.
This movie has the feel of a museum of sorts, such is its glossy psychological presentation, obviously chosen to as to underline its entertainment value, at the same time as the story doesn't shy away (in the rarer moments), from revealing the insidious personality of Dutch Schultz, and the underbelly of his organization, (encompassing gambling, booze, night club, protection rackets, etc)
The music and filming is okay, the recreation of the time and space of the 1930's, is excellent, while the full frontal nudity of Kidman on 3 occasions, doesn't seem to add much to the movie or story, perhaps quite the opposite; the first, occurring in front of a mirror, the next when she's diving into a water fall, and the last, when she's exiting the water. Perhaps the Director insisted on the scenes, to underline Loren Dean growing into adulthood and its profound significance.
The social values of the time, and imperfection of the legal system is plain, as a significant number of judges, peace officers are keen in accepting envelopes filled with cash and gifts, in exchange for special favors protecting the Schultz organization. The strategy of asking for a court hearing to be done in a rural town vs. NYC, is explained, as the education level of out of city citizens is a lot lower, their neglected poverty simple to alleviate through cash gifts, in return for later favors as jurors, and the mass media being very local in each town, as citizens aren't offered news articles from out of state very much, limiting their worldly perspective. In the words of Hoffman: "Those in Upstate NY (Onandaga) are decent people, unlike those in city."
The script spends time reliving Schultz's last years, the decline of that organization, as his original methods in maintaining power become a lot less effective in face of a changing world, as new, equally lethal rivals appear on the scene, in the form of the Sicilians keen in overtaking the Schultz territory and accompanying underground activities.
As with Capone, the IRS has very strong Federal powers against those evading taxes, and ultimately, this leads to the demise of that gang leader. despite following his Consiglieri's advise to the letter.
Bruce Willis is given a short role, but important one nonetheless, eventually paying the price for a double cross, through cement boots, swimming with the fishes.
Paradoxically, Schultz runs out of money, as a result of rubbing out one of his caporegimes who boasted exorting $2 million per year from NYC restaurant owners on reputation only, because he admitted skimming $50 k as commissions. "He tried to take what was mine!" was Hoffman's explanation.