**/**** Image B- Sound C+
starring Robert De Niro, Michael Moriarty, Vincent Gardenia
screenplay by Mark Harris, based on his novel
directed by John Hancock
by Walter Chaw Almost fatally hamstrung by an appalling score by Stephen Lawrence, John D. Hancock's Bang the Drum Slowly is a character-driven adaptation of a Mick Harris's novel (Harris also wrote the screenplay) that evokes the odd twilit detachment of professional sports in general and baseball in particular with a tale made suddenly popular in 1973 by the success of Brian's Song. Its baseball scenes almost tertiary to the friendship between a pitcher and his catcher (and the catcher and his hooker girlfriend), the picture feels a little like Of Mice and Men (complete with Steinbeck's low American primitivism) in the doomed relationship between a blue-collar man and his retarded friend. The film is riddled with pitfalls from the start: the potential for maudlin excess, the trap of over-writing, and the allure of some sort of overriding message for humanity. And though Bang the Drum Slowly dances along the edge of those pitfalls for a good portion of its running time, ultimately it's just another one of those films better remembered than revisited.