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The Cotton Club has style, I'll give it that, but the production is marred by too many plot-lines and too many characters. The movie would have improved greatly with a stronger sense of focus. The worst narrative strain is that of a couple of black tapdancers who spend a big chunck of the movie tapdancing. Also, romantic entanglements concerning one of the tapdancers with a mulatto singer. Both of those elements are painfully boring and seems totally unrelated to the rest of the movie. There are far more sparkle (and sense of danger) in the romantic entanglements between lead Richard Gere and the young and splendid Diane Lane. The strongest performance is, however, that of Bob Hoskin's mob boss, a real powerhouse performance! I wish the movie could have been more about him.
Francis Ford Coppola died sometime in the late 1970s. He was promptly replaced by a look-alike that had very similar tastes so no one would notice. Unfortunately, FFC-redux' talents did not extend to cinema and all of his work after 1979 seems extremely amateurish.
If The Cotton Club was made before The Godfather or anything else FC made during the 70s, then yes it can and should be considered a classic. This movie is the poorly crafted student film that financiers would see and say "Hey, this kid's got talent." But as it came after he already made masterpieces, the financiers are saying "What the fuck?"
I liked the dancing sequences but they had no business being in here. If anything it seemed like there were two 90-minute pictures mashed together to create one incoherent mess.
Reading the production history of this film on Wikipedia is far more interesting than the movie itself. Financial backers included an Arab arms dealer and a vaudeville promoter who was eventually murdered. Five scripts written in one non-stop 48-hour period, contributing to an approximate total of 30-40 total scripts produced. Robert Evans was the original director before he woke up out of his cocaine coma and realized that his time would better be spent planning murders and trafficking cocaine.
This movie is terrible. From the story to the characters, the pacing, the acting, etc.. First of all, Zeltaebar is absolutely right in saying there are too many plotlines. From a glance, it seems like there are two stories being told. But it forks. Oh, does it fork. On the one hand, we have Richard Gere, who is a moralistic (maybe? He's implied to be) guy that rises through the ranks of the mob, and becomes a bad guy for one scene, and then becomes boring and devoid of personality. He has a love interest, played by Diane Lane, and their relationship doesn't really evolve much, they just sort of end up together. It doesn't help that their performances are one note and they have no chemistry. another fork in his story is his love interest's mobster boyfriend, The Dutchman, who just sort of exists for most of the movie. He does things, just not ones that are important to the… is there even a plot in this movie at all? There isn't even really a through line. At least I can say that the second story, even though it's also awful, follows a through-line. Oh, getting back to the boyfriend. He's played by James Remar, who is so awful in this that he ended up being my favourite character. Gere also has a mob boss friend/higher-up ally played by Bob Hoskins, who also just sort of exists, only he serves even less of a purpose. At least Remar's character is a villain. OK, sure, he's a villain in about one scene, and for the rest of the movie he's just sort of an angry gangster, but he's a villain in one scene. That's something, I guess. The last thing I'll mention about this story is Nic Cage, who is his friend that goes sort of nuts, but sort of not. He's the focus for about 20 minutes, and then . This story is atrocious, and it feels like it was written as an excuse for Coppola to pay homage to the time period.
The second story is about a black tap dancer. He's partners with his brother, . He also has a love interest, who passes for a white person. They very briefly touch on themes of gentrification, but nothing ever comes of it, because they need to have the Hollywood ending. There's also a black gang that wants to protect the black performers, but absolutely nothing comes of it. Lawrence Fishburne is one of them (I think, it's confusing), and he's pretty darn good, but he has one line, and ultimately no consequence. The thing about this story is that it practically ends before the third act. The characters are still in the movie, but they cease to matter at all.
The pacing is so horrendous. The Nicolas Cage stuff is in a big chunk, and ends up just being pointless. This movie has no story. It's just a bunch of things happening with little-to-no consequence. I suppose Fred Gwynne was charismatic, and the music was enjoyable. Coppola's direction was mostly good, but he fell into too many traps of just doing something to pay homage, instead of telling a good story. It's incredibly bad, please don't watch it, for your sake.
Oh, and a happy belated birthday to Francis Ford Coppola!
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