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USA 1973
Directed by
John D Hancock
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Bang The Drum Slowly

Robert De Niro was yet to get his big break as Johnny Boy in Mean Streets, released the same year, when he played Bruce Pearson, a country bumpkin baseball player dying of Hodgkins’ disease. Although critically very well-received at the time the film has rather deservedly been largely forgotten about since.

Based on a 1955 novel by Mark Harris who also wrote the script it was first filmed for television and starred Paul Newman. This version doesn’t go much beyond the televisual. An improbably cast De Niro (whoever thought he looked like a “Bruce”?) struggles to maintain a Southern accent, sliding in and out of his Bronx patois and his character is too dumb to do much more than play second fiddle to the bland Michael Moriarty as his protector and film’s narrator.

Vincent Gardenia turns in a winning performance as a crustily avuncular team manager but although with apparently serious intent and some catchy dialogue by Harris ( e.g.the hooker whom Bruce wants to marry argues that why should she go amateur when she can get paid as a professional) the film slides from appearing to be a sports movie to a comedy to a tear-jerker without ever really engaging with its subject-matter dramatically.




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