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RAGTIME

title: RAGTIME
year: 1981
cast: Howard Rollins Jr., James Cagney, James Olson, Brad Dourif
rating: **

With a great script, director Milos Forman can make a perfect film. With a mediocre script, Milos will make a mediocre film that looks great. Such is the case in this period drama centering on a black man, Howard Rollins, holed-up in a library with thugs (including a young Sam Jackson) and explosives because of what happened to his car and his lady. Legendary James Cagney plays a police commissioner after a long screen absence, but seems to be going through the motions: perhaps because of his advanced age. But the most frustrating aspect of this E.L. Doctorow adaptation is that it initially promises to be a big film on a grand scale, teasing us with gorgeous sets, historical tie-ins, and various eclectic characters who, by the end, mean very little.
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