My biggest problem with Billy Bathgate was the credibility. Dustin Hoffman plays a ruthless gangster. First of all, can you imagine Hoffman playing an all-through bad, vicious, and dangerous person? No, I didn't think so. I mean, Hoffman is indeed an amazing actor with many brilliant (and what is nowadays considered) classic performances. He can play crooks, very well. Crooks á la disney, that is. And he can play wackos very convincing like no other actor. And he can play distressed characters who can use voilence, but only in self-defence. But sorry, Hoffman can never fool us he is a bad guy on screen. And never a ruthless gangster.
I think that is one reason why many people have a problem to take this seriously.
I also think that when people go to the cinemas to see a gangster movie, they usually have expectations that it will be action, voilence, and some really cool characters to remember. Only sometimes it works to put some humour into them, like Tarantino and the Cohen brothers have succeeded with.
But Billy Bathgate is a mix between the this-is-the-story-when-I-grew-up-to-be-a-gangster- cathegory and yet trying to be cool and voilent. It simply doesn't work. And I also take a really hard time to take that wannabe-gangsta kid seriously. He only appeared pathetic to me, and it becomes a big issue once you cannot feel any sympathy with the maincharacter when watching a movie.
Don't get fooled by the starcast; Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Nicole Kidman ect.
I was waiting for 106 minutes for this movie to take off, which it never did. A boring movie, to put it short.