Without Klaus Maria Brandauer's brilliantly nuanced performance, STREETS OF GOLD might easily have been just another predictable boxing film; with it, this story of a Russian immigrant who trains two young New Yorkers to fight against the Soviet national team is something considerably
more. Alek Neuman (Brandauer), a one-time national champion who was prohibited from fighting for the Soviet Union in the Olympics because he is Jewish, emigrates to Brooklyn's Brighton Beach. After "living in Russia like an American," he now lives in "America like a Russian," working as a dish
washer, and, disillusioned, he begins drinking heavily. Eventually, however, Alek begins coaching Timmy Boyle (Adrian Pasdar), a tough Irish kid, and Roland Jenkins (Wesley Snipes), an immensely gifted black fighter. Initially, Alek's charges can't stand each other, but while training together
they grow close, and when Roland is hurt in a nightclub fracas and unable to fight in the US-Soviet match, his and Alek's hopes ride on Timmy's fists. Although the plot of STREETS OF GOLD offers few surprises and its rock-scored montage training sequences might have been lifted from any number of
similar films, director Joe Roth does a nice job of capturing the feel of Brighton Beach's Russian community, and the relationship between the two fighters (capably portrayed by Pasdar and Snipes) and Alek is interesting if not always compelling. Brandauer, however, takes what probably would have
been an interesting character and makes it a fascinating one, bringing complexity, depth, and an understated sense of humor to Alek, adding just the right spin to otherwise unmemorable lines.
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