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The Cotton Club

review by Zach B.


Rated R

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 129 minutes

Starring Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Fred Gwynne

Screenplay by William Kennedy & Francis Coppola
Story by William Kennedy & Francis Coppola and Mario Puzo

Directed by Francis Coppola

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Mono, English Closed Captions, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selections (16 Chapters)

It's 1928 in Harlem, New York. Jazz and gangsters are king in an interesting lifestyle. Richard Gere plays Dixie Dwyer, a musician who witnesses a murder. Because of this, he becomes a private entertainer for a mob king named Dutch Schultz. While Dixie begins to fall in love with his girl, Vera, his brother Vincent starts to work for Dutch himself. Another story involves a tap dancer named Sandman Williams who tries to win the heart of lounge singer Lea Rose Oliver. A lot of this and more intertwines through the exclusive Cotton Club, a club which comes to represent so much through the lives of people, including dreams and hopes.

"The Cotton Club" is one of Coppola's movies that some people do forget, but with it, there is quite a rich history of production problems and fights behind it. You'd think with Coppola thinking up the story with William Kennedy and Mario Puzo they'd have another "Godfather" like hit on their hands, but the film did lower expectations of quite a few. Sure it's no "Apocalypse Now", but it's no "Jack" either. Of all of Coppola's movies, I'd say it falls somewhere in the middle, perhaps a little higher up. But just a little higher up. The movie did garner some acclaim, not to mention some award nominations, but when people think of Coppola, they don't really think of this movie.

"The Cotton Club" certainly has a wonderful premise and setting, but I found the movie to be hit and miss. The characters and story are certainly there, as they are nicely developed and have a lot to them. The characters are quite believable, as we see they have a lot of emotion and feeling to them. Still, my problems with the movie is how it drags on and times and I always didn't find things always so enthralling. Still, the movie has a lot of moments that certainly are memorable.

The acting in this movie is great, as Coppola has a wonderful ensemble. Gere as Dixie Dwyer is a good fit, while the chemistry he shares with Diane Lane is very good. Lane herself stands on her own as a strong character, while Coppola's nephew Nicolas Cage does a good job as Vincent. Bob Hoskins has a smaller role as a mob boss, and it's amazing as far as the range he features. Still, the real standout is Gregory Hines. He also has great chemistry with Lonette McKee. Still, Hines' enthusiasm, dancing skills (of course) and presence is a joy to watch, and that can't be denied. A great ensemble here.

Coppola's directing in this movie is certainly good, as he really makes us feel like we're in Harlem during 1928. The music stylings, the realistic and deep settings, the props and his very nice shots give it a really remarkable feel. The editing in this movie gives it all a nice flow too. It's a bit hard to describe, but in all, he really does transport us back to an interesting time as we feel all of which is unfolding right before our eyes. While this movie is not for everyone, Coppola fans and fans of old-time, classic gansgter stories of sorts will want to check this movie out.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer looks pretty darn good. It shows wear and age, but it could have worse. Pieces of dirt and blemishes appear on the print throughout, not to mention the amount of scratches, nicks and blotches. This gets very distracting and annoying. The picture looks a little faded and soft at times, not to mention the visible grain. Blacks are pretty solid and detail is decent, while hues and colors that light up the clubs and fabulous settings are well saturated and do stand out. Nothing groundbreaking, but pretty good. Too bad the little annoyances all over the print get in the way.

The new 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is pretty strong, though I felt if the movie was a bit newer, it'd be stronger. Still, it's really good for what it is. The variety of jazz music has a really strong presence, as it is well mixed throughout all the channels and makes the movie just come more to life since it is a big focus and backdrop of the movie. There really is a lot of it and often comes to represent scenes of the movie. The violent sounds give off good surrounds, and the .1 LFE is pretty good. Tap sounds, dancing, the sounds of the street... it really takes you there surprisingly. Dialogue is clean and not distorted, but now and then other sounds get in the way. This is a strong mix for what it is, and was a nice surprise that way. French and Spanish subtitles, plus English closed captions are included.

The Theatrical Trailer that lasts a good length. It's in anamorphic widescreen. Features on making the movie or background on actual clubs in the 1920s and 1930s would have been nice.

"The Cotton Club" has a decent transfer, a good new remix and is pretty bare bones. While the price is cheap, die-hard fans of the movie should only check it out. Everyone else, give it a rental.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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