Masterfully acted and mercifully restrained, the screen version of Mark Harris's novel Bang the Drum Slowly is a genuinely moving account of an unusual friendship between two baseball players. Though a story about mortally ill mediocre New York catcher Bruce Pearson and his bond with his star pitcher roommate Henry Wiggen has the potential for bathos, director John Hancock and writer Harris eschew lingering tearful farewells and prolonged death scenes. Along with stylized game sequences (shot on-location at Shea and Yankee Stadiums), Hancock mines emotion from Wiggen's laconically fierce protectiveness and Pearson's barely articulate yet palpable appreciation for his friendship, and the team ensemble provides moments of gentle comic relief. Michael Moriarity shines as Wiggen, while Robert De Niro's simple Southern boy Pearson was light years away from his hopped up performance as Mean Streets' volatile Johnny Boy. Greeted with rave reviews for its heart and delicacy, Bang the Drum Slowly helped make De Niro a star and earned him a New York Critics' Circle prize. Vincent Gardenia, though, got the Oscar nomination for his humorously suspicious manager Dutch Schnell.