1 1/2 Stars
Cannon Films founder Menahem Golan steps back behind the camera to serve as director for the first time since 1989’s Mack the Knife. Showing little style or talent Golan has fashioned a wanna-be gangster bio-pic (no doubt due to the commercial and critical acclaim for Bugsy) but succeeds only in making a picture that meanders story-wise and looks cheap. Hit the Dutchman is a retelling of the origins of gangland leader Dutch Schultz from a broke parolee named Arthur Fellingheimer to the head of racketeering in Harlem known as ‘The Dutchman’.
All the ingredients are there for an intelligent, exciting film full of rich character development. Unfortunately Golan and co. are failed due to a cliched script by writers Alex Simon and Joseph Goldman that covers only the most exploitable aspects of Schultz’s short life. Bruce Nozick is a familiar face from many television and movies yet here in his first starring role he comes off as over-the-top and a bit too ‘theatrical’; he doesn’t speak so much as proclaim his lines. Maybe it was from a lack of direction by Golan but the performance comes off as hammy and it threatens to sink the entire film on numerous occasions. Jack Conely plays Thomas Dewey the man that spearheaded the almost fanatical pursuit to bring Schultz to justice. The relationship between the two men is the most interesting aspect in the entire film yet once again Golan and his writers have missed another opportunity to really connect. Instead for feeling sympathy or apathy for either character the audience is left with indifference and left wondering whom we are supposed to identify with?
A couple of interesting side notes about the film; this was intended as the first in a proposed trilogy that would include and examine in-depth the stories of all the major supporting characters. One semi-sequel was produced titled Killer Instincts (1993) that focused on the homicidal enforcer known as Mad Dog Coll and his brother Peter Coll. Upon poor critical reception at the time of release both films were quickly dumped onto VHS and all plans for follow-up films were shelved. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t have more respect ( and money) for the source material. For a more accurate rendering of the Dutch Schultz persona check out the underrated 1997 film Hoodlum; featuring an excellent performance by Tim Roth in the role.
Director: Menahem Golan
Stars: Bruce Nozick, Jack Conley, Eddie Bowz
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