(director: Ben Bolt; screenwriters: Robert Roy Pool/ based on the novel ”The Arm” by Clark Howard;; cinematographer: Ralf D. Bode; editor: Stuart Pappe; music: Michael Melvoin; cast: Matt Dillon (J.C. Cullen), Diane Lane (Lorry Dane), Tommy Lee Jones (George Cole), Bruce Dern (Mr. Edwards), Lee Grant (Ferguson Edwards), Tom Skerritt (Phil Carpenter), Suzy Amis (Aggie Donaldson), David Marshall Grant (Sonny Binkley), Don Francks (Carl Hooker); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Martin Ransohoff; Vestron; 1987)

“A disheartening formulaic story of a crap-shooter trying to stay ahead of the game.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ben Bolt(“Wilderness”/”Forgotten”/”Turn of the Screw”) drearily directs a disheartening formulaic story of a crap-shooter trying to stay ahead of the game. Bolt replaced dismissed director Harold Becker. That was a bad move, as he made the pic look like your ordinary TV crime drama.

The action is set in Chicago, in 1957. It’s based on the novel ”The Arm” by Clark Howard. The script writer is Robert Roy Pool.

The uninspired drama mumbles some vagaries about how the young should learn from their elders the meaning of life. But that all seems like so much gas, as the real intent is to show how easy it is take a wrong turn in a city with many temptations.

The young farm boy J.C. Cullen (Matt Dillon) leaves a small town in Iowa for Chicago, where he hopes to make his mark as a crap-shooter. On the recommendation of an Iowa gambler, Cullen is hired as a dice player for the married professional gamblers, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards (Bruce Dern & Lee Grant). While on the job, Cullen falls for both the single mom good girl girl club waitress Aggie (Suzy Amis) and the scheming married bad girl stripper Lorry Dane (Diane Lane). Her hubby is the evil vice king strip-joint owner George Cole (Tommy Lee Jones).

The kid, corrupted by the bright lights of the city, goes on a hot streak playing craps with some of the Windy City high-rollers. Then the kid bankrupts the hateful and vengeful Cole, the city’s notorious crime figure, and suddenly finds his life is in danger. But the kid has enough spunk to fight back and thereby saves his ass while regaining his moral compass.