From start to finish, it's a story of friendship between 4 street-wise males who don't mind using violence to achieve the lives that they want. They trust no one but each other which is vital to their success as mobsters.
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The film focuses on the war of two gangs in 1930s Harlem for the control of illegal gaming - one headed by black strategic godfather Bumpy Johnson and another by white ruthless hothead Dutch Schultz. Negotiations proposed by white syndicate boss Lucky Luciano never get under way, blood flows and Johnson gets jailed. When Johnson is paroled, he gets the work of enforcer for mighty Stephanie "The Queen" St. Clair. She is also jailed for racketeering and when she leaves she makes him promise "no violence". Written by
The 1997 movie `Hoodlum' takes place during the depression. A black man named Ellsworth `Bumpy' Johnson (Lawrence Fishburne) was released from prison and went back to Harlem. Then he joins his cousin, Illinois Gordon, and gets back into an illegal lottery racket ran by Madame Queen. They call the game `numbers.' They say that numbers is the only business in Harlem which provides them with work. A white man from uptown named Dutch Shultz (Tim Roth) is also trying to run the numbers downtown in Harlem, and there ends up being a battle between Shultz and the Queen. Madame goes to jail and leaves Bumpy in charge. Bumpy meets a fine woman, Francine (Vanessa Williams), who sees good in him and wants him to stop messing around with `numbers.' But she stays by his side while things get chaotic. Will he realize what he should do in time or will he lose everything?
The director Bill Duke has a message in this movie. It says when people are left limited options, they are going to find a way to get by. In one scene, Bumpy is telling Illinois because of the depression there isn't very many jobs and white men didn't leave them any jobs, so they had no options for making money other than through the numbers racket.
This movie had fast paced action. I liked the part where Dutch Shultz wants Madame Queen's organization out of the numbers racket in Harlem, so he can make all the money from it. Bumpy, who works for Madame Queen, comes up with a plan for eliminating the problem of Dutch, by getting Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia), another gangster, and Dutch in a fight. This movie is a `classic gangster movie.'
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