Continuing the story of Aurora Greenway in her latter years. After the death of her daughter, Aurora struggled to keep her family together, but has one grandson in jail, a rebellious ... See full summary »
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
All too often Jack Nicholson just coasts and plays his stock character. Sometimes it's boring, occasionally it's insulting, but in "Hoffa" Nicholson puts aside the sneer and the leer and delivers a knockout performance. Although he doesn't really look that much like the Teamster boss, Nicholson captures the man's aura perfectly. It's more than just nailing the vocal rhythms and inflections or mastering Hoffa's body language, you feel Nicholson is conveying the inner man as well. This is truly a multi-dimensional interpretation and it's absolutely stunning.
Unfortunately, the film is an inadequate showcase for Nicholson's talents. The story begins in 1975 on what presumably was the last day of Hoffa's life as he and his pal Bobby Ciaro (Danny DeVito) wait for some people to show up for a meeting at a Michigan roadhouse. They wait a long time which allows Bobby to recall many incidents in Hoffa's extraordinary career as a union organizer.
There are two problems with this. First Bobby, who's supposed to be something of an enforcer, is never credible. Although he's nearly always in view, he never seems to belong. Perhaps that's because he's entirely a creation of screenwriter David Mamet. Barely adequate as a story-telling device, Bobby's unfortunate insertion gives rise to the inevitable, more serious question: how much of this story is true?
If you accept Mamet's interpretation, Hoffa was a victim of a trusted associate, the Government, and the Mob, but foremost a hero because he fought for the working man. Fair enough. But when you watch "Hoffa" you don't really get a clear sense of why all this was so. Motivations are largely absent. The flashbacks pass by but you feel these are merely sketches or outlines, often presented without clear context. Some are believable, others seem to be mere speculation, still others, such as the scenes with Robert Prosky or the enormous riot sequence, implausible. Was Prosky's character real? Did so many people actually die? Ask Bobby, because in many ways it's as much his story as Hoffa's; but as we know, Bobby is pure fiction.
Mamet has been quoted as saying audiences look more for drama than for information. Fine, and who'd want to see Ken Burns' take on the Teamsters. But "Hoffa", for all its huffing and puffing, lacks the drama of Paul Schrader's "Blue Collar" or the better Mob pictures.
Recommended solely for Nicholson's performance.
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