Jack Nicholson's portrait of Union leader James R. Hoffa, as seen through the eyes of his friend, Bobby Ciaro (Danny DeVito). The film follows Hoffa through his countless battles with the RTA and President Roosevelt all the way to a conclusion that negates the theory that he disappeared in 1975. Written by
At the time of the movie's release, it had been 17 years since Jimmy Hoffa disappeared and 10 years since he was declared "legally dead" (when authorities gave up actively searching for Hoffa). See more »
When Hoffa is elected president of the Teamsters, the band plays the song "Hey, Look Me Over" from the Broadway musical "Wildcat". Hoffa was elected in 1957; "Wildcat" premiered in 1960. See more »
In this bitter, dark but effectively powerful film, legendary Teamsters Union President James Riddle (Jimmy) Hoffa is the centerfold. Bobby Ciaro (DeVito, also the director) is a fictional character who acts as Hoffa's goffer throughout the film, refusing to co-operate with the authorities when so-asked, calling various mafiosi on his behalf, and generally acting as his mouthpiece. We see Hoffa as a dominant figure, a lion, a leader. But these are deceptive subliminal messages, since the whole film is seen from a plexi-glass viewpoint. In fact, so icy is DeVito's direction, that when a riot breaks out at the very beginning, we watch from a bird's eye view as the little ant-like labourers clash with the police. It is insulting to the intelligence, and takes much away from the depth of the film, rendering it rather picturesque but unexplained. In fact, the entire film is like a museum piece behind velvet ropes, that can only be gazed at from a distance, but cannot be felt or examined closer -- as closer examination would reveal the plotholes and irrationalities of the storyline in the first place. Hoffa is generally treated as an American hero, the little guy who stood up for all the other little guys, the man who went to prison because the cruel Attorney General Kennedy (aptly performed by Kevin Anderson) would not allow him to skim a few bucks out of the pension fund for the Union he ran. Indeed, Hoffa did go to prison in real-life, and was pardoned by President Nixon, but the stipulation in the pardon was one which seemed to slip under Hoffa's nose. This, and his general trouble-stirring attitude (with Nicholson effortlessly portrays, sometimes even looking like a mirror-image of the real-life counterpart) would lead to his demise and mysterious disappearance in 1975. Perhaps had DeVito gone more into the life of the man, more into why he had the ambitions he did (there is absolutely no explanation for his being the president, in fact, he just seems to recruit labourers from various locals and then all of a sudden he is Mr. Universe), and why he was careless enough to make shady dealings with the Mob. In fact, nearly all of the story is mafia-backed but all of the credit is placed on Jimmy's shoulders. It is simply a waste of Nicholson's stellar performance.
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