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‘Streets of Gold’ (R)

By Paul Attanasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 19, 1986

"Streets of Gold" is a sort of "Rocky" told from the point of view of the coach. Alek Neuman (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a Russian boxing champion banned from the 1976 Olympics because he is Jewish, emigrates to the United States, where he works as a dishwasher. Too old to fight, he can still teach, and in the New York slums he finds two young toughs to tutor.

Timmy (Adrian Pasdar) and Roland (Wesley Snipes) are all heart and no brains, but the savvy Alek takes these two tomato cans and molds them into fighters good enough to qualify for a tournament against the Soviet team. Timmy and Roland have to learn more than the how and when of a right hook -- more important is the value of friendship, loyalty, racial harmony and the pure joy of the sweet science. So that finally, Alek may seek revenge through the fists of his prote'ge's.

"Streets of Gold" went through three screen writers, working from the story of a fourth, and the result is, predictably, a patchwork. And, as you'd expect from a movie directed by a producer (Joe Roth), "Streets of Gold" is admirably produced but poorly directed. It's nicely photographed and edited, with a moving theme (by composer Jack Nitzsche) and an attractive cast (including a soulful Angela Molina as Alek's love interest), but it's also poorly paced, emotionally enigmatic and often thuddingly obvious.

The joy of "Streets of Gold," though, is the joy of watching Brandauer. It's a wonder nobody had thought of casting Brandauer as a boxer before -- his work is so full of devilish feints and tricky, misleading expressions. For such a chunky fellow, he's remarkably graceful, and simply with the modulations in his voice, he builds in all the characterization that the Four Horsemen of the screenplay left out. Like the best boxers, Brandauer has a way of keeping you off your balance, while never losing his. Streets of Gold, at area theaters, is rated R and contains graphic violence and profanity.

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