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Film / Billy Bathgate

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Billy Bathgate is a 1991 American gangster film, starring Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, and Loren Dean as the title character. The screenplay was adapted by from E.L. Doctorow's novel of the same name. Although Billy is a fictional character, most of the other characters in the film represent real people from 1930s New York.

Billy Behan is a poor teenage boy from the Bronx. One day he catches the attention of gangster Dutch Schultz (Hoffman). Changing his last name to Bathgate, after a local street, he goes to work for Schultz's organization, serving mostly as a gopher for Schultz. Billy is present when Schultz murders his former partner Bo Weinberg (Willis), who Schultz believes betrayed him. Schultz then begins a relationship with Weinberg's beautiful girlfriend, Drew Preston (Kidman). When Schultz faces legal charges in a court in upstate New York and has to stand trial, Billy's loyalties to Schultz are tested when he begins falling in love with the flirtatious Drew.

This film contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Schultz. While he's shown willing to order the murders of his rivals and his unfaithful girlfriend, he successfully charms the New York locals, presenting himself as charming and good natured, and when Billy and him have a falling out and Billy is fired, Schultz's outfit lets him keep the money intended as a bribe for another gangster as a severance package.
    • Goes double for Berman, who becomes something of a grandfather figure to Billy. He's kindly, sweet-natured, and when he realizes Billy is getting in over his head, contrives to have him fired to avoid getting caught up in Schulz's planned gang war. None of that stops him from being the brains behind Schulz's operation and enabling his worst tendencies, and when he realizes Drew is driving a wedge between Schulz and his men he sets her up to get assassinated.
  • Alliterative Name: Billy Bathgate.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Being 1930s gangsters, the gangsters seen in the film all appear in nice suits.
  • The Beard: Drew walks in on her husband in a homosexual tryst but is more concerned with choosing the right outfit to take on a trip, implying their marriage is one of convenience for both of them.
  • Big Applesauce: All of the movie takes place in New York and environs, and some parts were actually shot in Saratoga Springs, New York.
  • Cement Shoes: Schultz and his men execute Bo Weinberg by encasing his feet in cement and throwing him into the East River from a boat.
  • The Filmof The Book: Based on E.L. Doctorow's 1989 novel of the same name. The book won the PEN Faulkner award, was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, and is generally considered one of the greatest books of the 20th century and is sometimes cited as THE best English-language book of the 1980s. The movie on the other hand...
  • Guns Akimbo: There's a scene where Dutch is showing off the pistol skills of his bodyguards Lulu and Irving. Dutch asks Billy which of them is the best. Billy thinks it's Irving, because he aims with a single pistol and therefore is more accurate. But Dutch points out that's mostly useful for when you can set up a hit in advance. Lulu, who blazes away with two .45's, is more useful for circumstances when you need to throw out a lot of lead quickly (e.g. when you're being attacked).
  • In Love with the Gangster's Girl: Billy's problems with Schultz and his gang begin when he falls in love with Schultz's girlfriend Drew. Berman realizes that Billy isn't cut out for gang life when Billy contrives to prevent her assassination.
  • Kosher Nostra: Dutch Schultz and all the men working for him are Jewish mobsters. He's based on the real life Jewish mobster Dutch Schultz, real name Arthur Flegenheimer. Otto Berman and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are similarly based on men of the same names, while Irving is a dub for Schulz henchman Abe Landau.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: It is stated that Drew was already married before becoming Weinberg's girlfriend, then she walks in on her husband in a homosexual tryst, then she becomes Schultz's girlfriend after Schultz kills Weinberg, then she becomes Billy's. Billy eventually calls her husband to take her home before Schultz's men can kill her.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nicole Kidman appears completely nude, while swimming and even in front of a three-sided mirror, as if to not miss any part of her anatomy.