In 1984, Francis Ford Coppola focused his talents as Writer & Director on the gangsters and entertainers that ruled NYC in the 30's. THE COTTON CLUB emerged as one of his most troubled productions and that's saying something knowing this is the man that shot Apocalypse Now.
Richard Gere stars as Dixie Dwyer, a trumpet player with a taste for Hollywood and Vera Cicero (Diane Lane) who happens to be the girlfriend of the possessive and violent Dutch Schultz.
Gere and Lane are great together, but Dutch is played by James Remar in a one-note, over the top performance that doesn't offer many surprises.
The film's best assets are the great performances by its supporting cast, especially Bob Hoskins as Madden and Fred Gwynne as Frenchy. For anyone that's only seen Gwynne as Herman Munster, his dramatic role here is a real revelation. Frenchy is one scary guy with a deep sense of loyalty.
In the racially divided 1930's, The Cotton Club featured the greatest black entertainers of their time, but they can only perform in the club, not patronize it.
Gregory and Maurice Hines are very good as the Williams Brothers, a young Laurence Fishburne is terrific as Bumpy and Nicolas Cage is flat out nuts as Dixie's unhinged gangster wannabe brother, Vincent.
The musical numbers that Coppola and his usual incredible design team (Richard Sylbert's production design, period costumes by Melena Canonero) present here are terrific, giving you a real flavor of the clubs and the actors, socialites and gangsters that pack them every night.
Gere also impressively learned to play the cornet and that is him playing all his own solos.
With a $58 million budget in 1984 and less than $30 million at the box office, this was a major flop for Coppola at the time, but it's hard to see why. It's one of his better films, mixing the flavor of "The Godfather" with the authentic music of the time, recreated by true artists.
There was a lot of bad press at the time around a murder that happened on the set and the production troubles that seemed to haunt the film.
It's a very good film, told as only Coppola in the seventies and eighties could. A bloody entertaining B.