Hoodlum

This period gangster picture attempts to do for 1930s Harlem and real-life numbers impresario Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) what the GODFATHER trilogy did for the Mafia, but director Bill Duke undermines it at every turn, shifting tone from morality tale to comedy to straight-out action. Newly released from Sing Sing, Bumpy heads right...read more

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  • Hoodlum Tuesday Jun 26th, 4:37pm

    STARZ
Reviewed by Sandra Contreras
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This period gangster picture attempts to do for 1930s Harlem and real-life numbers impresario Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) what the GODFATHER trilogy did for the Mafia, but director Bill Duke undermines it at every turn, shifting tone

from morality tale to comedy to straight-out action. Newly released from Sing Sing, Bumpy heads right back into business with Harlem numbers queen Stephanie St. Clair (Cicely Tyson), who's trapped in a turf war with the ruthless Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth). Bumpy's conflict resolution strategy:

Declare full-scale war on Schultz and his minions. The escalating battle of attrition reveals the brutality and fundamental amorality of men like Schultz, Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia) and Bumpy himself, who ends up disappointing not only mentor St. Clair but religious and community-minded new

squeeze Francine (Vanessa Williams) as well. As befits any good gangster movie, especially one as conspicuously aware of its ancestors as this one, there are shoot outs, explosions and tense face-offs between convincing tough guys aplenty. But the actors are ill-served by the howlers they're asked

to deliver, and the film contains some ridiculously pretentious scenes calculated to make any right-thinking person laugh. Uneven and inaccurate as it may be, it's hard to wash out entirely with a movie that explores as neglected an aspect of classic gangster mythology as this one; at the same

time, you can't help but wish it did so more successfully.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: This period gangster picture attempts to do for 1930s Harlem and real-life numbers impresario Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) what the GODFATHER trilogy did for the Mafia, but director Bill Duke undermines it at every turn, shifting tone fr… (more)

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