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'Streets of Gold' (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 14, 1986

Yo: "Rocky IV, Jr." is here, ready to knock the block off any two-fisted Russkie with the gumption to get into the ring with a red, white and blue-blooded, apple-pie power puncher. Sly Stallone is the only thing missing from "Streets of Gold," a rousing ringside drama with Austrian hunk Klaus Maria Brandauer.

Brandauer, an Oscar nominee for "Out of Africa," lends his clout and class to this heartwarming, hard-hitting story of boxing and bonding. He plays a Russian wronged, a Jewish boxing champion barred from bouts in his homeland who has immigrated to the United States -- whose citizens are free to punch each other senseless regardless of race, creed or AMA warnings.

Brandauer, hot-blooded, homesick and chock full of vodka, feels sorry for himself as a dishwasher in a Brighton Beach restaurant that caters to Russian expatriates like him. When two promising young fighters persuade him to be their coach, he sees a chance to vindicate himself by taking on the Russian national team in the slap-happy climax of this predictable saga.

After weightier roles in "Colonel Redl" and "Mephisto," Brandauer proves a captivating comic actor and romantic lead opposite Angela Molina as the love interest, and playing off the Brooklyn brashness of costars Wesley Snipes as an arrogant black fighter and Adrian Pasdar as an Irish slugger with more desire than talent. The performances are solid and the melting-pot plot propels us toward the patriotic fix we all occasionally must have. Sometimes the national anthem, a few thousand beer commercials and a bowl full of football players just aren't enough.

Principally, Brandauer is the reason for seeing "Streets of Gold," with his lovable lug's performance. And there is wit, fire and street-smart dialogue from screenwriter Tom Cole, who also wrote the teen story "Smooth Talk." There are the requisite training montages and slo-mo explosions of sweat. Alas, this is an amateur bout so there are only three rounds -- and the suspense, such as it is, never mounts as it does in a grown-up "Rocky." So Cole, with debuting producer-director Joe Roth, are forced to concentrate on character development. A couple of real risk-takers.

The story turns on the relationship between the two young boxers, who are initially antagonistic. But, things being what they are in sport, they are soon doing high fives, low fives, bun taps and other macho salutes of note. Likewise the fighters must come to respect their coach, who must come to respect himself and them and the whole dang American dream.

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