Jack Nicholson's portrait of Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa, as seen through the eyes of his friend Bobby Ciaro (Danny DeVito). This film follows Hoffa's struggle to shape America's most influential labor union through his countless battles with the RTA. As he fights for workers' rights, Hoffa locks horns with industry management, organized crime and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. In 1975, four years after serving his prison term, Hoffa disappears, in one of America's most fascinating unsolved crime mysteries. Written by
1992 was a year with a unifying theme for Steve Witting - that of getting assaulted and removed from scenes by characters played by Danny DeVito. First, in this film, he appears in a single scene as a representative of the federal government investigating in Jimmy Hoffa's office, where he is promptly shoved and kicked out by DeVito's Bobby Ciaro. Then, in his only other film that year, he has the unfortunate distinction of a slightly meatier role, in which his nose is nearly bitten off by DeVito's Penguin in a more memorable scene of Batman Returns (1992). See more »
In the scene where Hoffa, Billy Flynn, and Bobby Ciaro are preparing to set fire to a laundromat, Hoffa tells Ciaro to stay in the truck's cab and keep the engine running and in gear. This makes no sense, since Ciaro would have to keep the clutch down for the entire time it takes Hoffa and Flynn to set the fire. It would make more sense for Ciaro to keep the transmission running in idle, then quickly put it in gear for the getaway when Hoffa and Flynn are about to re-enter the truck. See more »
James Riddle Hoffa was probably one of the most enigmatic union leaders in this history of our country. As an important labor organizer during the over the road trucker strikes in the 1930s, he accomplished many things that made possible the emergence of the Teamsters Union as a major political force for several decades afterward. At the same time, he fell into a trap that bedevils many a fighter who perceives her/himself as a "people's champion"- he convinced himself that he had to fight fire with fire, and in the end, it devoured him. Secondly, Hoffa did not have the money, the support or the political sophistication of a Robert Kennedy. This'll finish you in the United States. Despite all our bombast about law and order, the country loves its shady political characters charming and slick, or the medicine show man, witness: Clinton, Reagan, Bush. The awkward and openly coarse need not apply, witness Nixon, Hoffa, Lott. David Mamet understands that, and that's why his version of Hoffa's life works.
Mamet's Hoffa knows the Kennedy family built their fortune out of rum running to a large extent, and he sees no difference between their corruption and his own compromises. At least, Hoffa tells himself, his own deals with the devil serve something larger then his immediate family, they serve the membership of the union. And this was very true, which is why a fair number of Teamsters still swear by the name Jimmy Hoffa. Nicholson's snide asides to his "betters" completely captures the class war basis that motivated the actual man's actions. Anyone who has been through an actual labor dispute and has been witness to the patronizing communications that come through a company eager to crush a union effort knows full well what fired up Jimmy Hoffa, even as we turn aside from the path he took.
The film succeeds because De Vito, Nicholson and Mamet understand what pushed the labor movement forward, and they understand its contradictions. Most important, they understand why those contradictions overwhelmed a man as gifted as Jimmy Hoffa, and this is what makes it better then your average Hollywood drama about labor. Hoffa is a film about working class attitude that gets beneath the usual dismissals of working class concerns, and as such, deserves respect. The powers that be have every legend about their leadership. It's time the working class was allowed legends about its own once again, provided we understand that they are legends, and therefore laden with much myth. The very real larger then life qualities of Jimmy Hoffa, however, make this a film worth more then one critical glance.
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