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Billy Bathgate

Overlooked upon its release in 1991 (including by me) the film adaption of EL Doctorow's BILLY BATHGATE is a first class gangster drama.

Dustin Hoffman is Dutch Shultz, the hair-trigger mob boss of several NYC neighborhoods.

Young Billy (Loren Dean) is fascinated with Dutch's reputation and finds a way into his organization.

He watches as trusted partners like Bo (Bruce Willis) rise and fall and new partners like Lucky Luciano (Stanley Tucci, terrific) circle Dutch.

Billy meets young women like Drew Preston (Nicole Kidman) who seem a thousand times more worldly than he could ever be.

As the body count piles up, Dutch heads to a small town to await trial, surrounded by his loyal advisor Otto (Steven Hill in a scene stealing role) and henchman Irving (Steve Buscemi).

The film starts out a bit slow, but grows on you as it unfolds in a smart screenplay by Tom Stoppard (Empire of the Sun, Brazil).

Director Robert Benton only made 12 films in the chair, including "Places in the Heart" and "Kramer vs Kramer" and this certainly deserves a place beside them both.

Dustin Hoffman is excellent throughout, with one of the most explosive tempers I can remember him portraying on film. It's a great performance and he oozes danger.

If you love gangster dramas and haven't seen BILLY BATHGATE, add it to your must watch list.

It gets a bullet ridden B.

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