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
Filming was taking place on location at the old Ambassador Hotel when the Rodney King beating trial verdict was announced. Rioting in Los Angeles broke out that evening, but filming continued until late in the evening. Things seemed relatively peaceful in L.A. the next morning, so filming resumed as scheduled. However, by two o'clock in the afternoon, rioting had become so intense, that the City of Los Angeles pulled the production's filming permit. The cast, crew, and hundreds of extras were released to make their way home amid the columns of smoke, sounds of gunfire, and clogged freeways. About three weeks later, cast, crew and extras returned to the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard to finish shooting the interrupted scenes. See more »
When Bobby holds a knife to Hoffa's throat in the alley, they are approached by Billy Flynn. Flynn pulls a revolver from his coat and cocks it, but it is uncocked/cocked in subsequent shots. See more »
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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