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The Cotton Club (1984)

tomatometer

60

Average Rating: 5.7/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.

audience

55

liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 7,009

My Rating

Movie Info

Combining electric song and dance performances with drama (both on and off screen), Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club (1984) looks back to the 1920s-1930s peak of the legendary Harlem nightclub where only blacks performed and only whites could sit in the audience. Mixing historical figures with characters loosely based on actual people, Coppola and co-writers William Kennedy and The Godfather's Mario Puzo create a panorama of love, crime, and entertainment centered on the Club. Among them

Jan 19, 2000

Nelson Entertainment

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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (6) | DVD (12)

Given its garish production history, one rather expected The Cotton Club to sing with hot-jazz desperation. Instead, we get the mediocre craftsmanship of a pit band in Vegas.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It was the most assured film Coppola had made in a decade, full of casual wit and visual invention.

December 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The narrative is a mess despite the simplistic twinning of tales.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Whatever it took to do it, Coppola has extracted a very special film out of the checkered history of this project.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sharply uneven, Coppola's period musical about he famous Harlem club is lavishly produced but shallow.

August 25, 2012 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

This musical gangster movie is a tour de force, even if a little muddled.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Lavish, interesting, evocative but strained and self-conscious, Cotton Club is all watchable curiosity.

December 11, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Energetic and involving.

June 5, 2004
Shadows on the Wall

Coppola's most shamefully underrated movie.

January 17, 2003
San Francisco Examiner

Ambitious, but like many post-Apocalypse Coppola films, it doesn't quite hit the mark.

July 25, 2002
Matinee Magazine

There're always something and someone interesting just around the corner; and, if Coppola seems to have difficulty with the story's narrative line, he does manage to help the audience keep straight the huge cast of characters.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

Coppola's claustrophobic fall from Eden is both fascinating and beautiful to watch.

August 16, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

There are lots of good ideas, but none of them are really worked out or honed

August 16, 2001 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

Gangsters, tap dancers, and jazz musicians collide!

July 22, 2001 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

This feels like a movie with its heart ripped out.

June 6, 2001 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Cotton Club

Good motion picture, but The Cotton Club presents some cliches of gangsters movies. Whatever, Coppola made a remarkable film.
May 21, 2011
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

While not the Godfather (and what is really...besides Godfather 2, but I digress)
The Cotton Club is a great entertaining little movie. All controversy about it's making aside Coppola and Evans managed to craft a thoroughly entertaining film with several great scenes and mostly solid performances (I'm looking at you Nic Cage and James Remar). I can say however, that this is hands down, the single best tap dancing gangster film ever made.
October 13, 2010
kenstachnik

Super Reviewer

Period gangster drama set around a nightclub in the 20s that's a little lacking in substance.
March 8, 2007
garyX
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

I know he wrote it, but one can only wonder how many times they had to tell Francis Ford Coppola that they weren't actually sticking cotton in their mouths. See, a joke like that should tell you that I'm am drained of creative juices and it doesn't help that there's not much that's very outstanding film. It's just kind of bland and not terribly original, making it pretty easy to lose interest in the film. The film also suffers from a lack of development and slow spots. Also, although anthologies feel smoother when we see the stories are split into segments layered on top of each other, whether then whole back-to-back stories, there is still a very real chance that the transition between story segments with kind of throw you off. That's definately the case here, as the messy storytelling makes our jumps between the multiple segments feel rather bumpy. Also, Diane Lane puts on a pretty weak performance and although she's rarely given anything to do, she's not the most enjoyable thing to see, outside of the pretty face, of course. Still, that short leg isn't enough to knock the chair over, because the other performances, keep the film going, among other things.

The story is not terribly original nor complex, but still rather compelling and the fabulous production designs really bring everything to life. Coppola really knows how to bring life to this film's period in how he sets the tone and even though you've seen this period explored to death, it's still fascinating to see. What further captures the time are the performances, which - with the exception of Lane, of course - capture the time, but still enough spirit and charisma in them to make the characters strong ones. Wow, this review isn't as bad as I feared. I mean, it's pretty bad, but not as bad as the opening joke promised. I guess I'm just no good at jokes or producing enough sentences to close out a paragraph, leaving me to resort to this stupid monologue to close out this paragraph. Okay, let's just close this thing out.

Overall, although the lack of originality and the somewhat messy storytelling keep it from delivering as well as a Coppola gangster film should, "The Cotton Club" holds the fabulous production design and compelling, well-acted ensemble that make a film like this an enjoyable one.
August 29, 2011
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

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