Francis Ford Coppola's film on the fabled Harlem nightspot of the 1920s is a disappointingly disjointed and confusing work, occasionally brightened by excellent period music and dance routines. The script focuses on Dixie (Richard Gere), a cornet player in the orbit of gangster Dutch Schultz, and Schultz's teenaged mistress Vera (Diane Lane), with whom Dixie becomes involved. The film's nearly impenetrable plot tends to deflect any kind of rational analysis, but it generally involves the conflicts between various gangster factions for the control of the club and their interaction with the entertainers who work there. Coppola makes a game attempt to galvanize things with period-appropriate montage sequences, but they only serve to throw the film's emptiness into relief. Sadly, Gere and Lane, who are supposed to be the center of the film, are saddled with truly awful dialogue in addition to having no chemistry as lovers. However, Bob Hoskins does interesting work as gangster Owney Madden, as does his sidekick, played by Fred Gwynne. Tap legends Gregory and Maurice Hines and Charles "Honi" Coles also grace the film with some wonderful dance numbers.
by Michael Costello review