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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
"Hoodlum" is a film that deserved much better. Bill Duke, its talented director, gives us a picture of what the Harlem of the thirties was like. In fact, "Hoodlum" suffers when it's compared to Coppola's "The Cotton Club". Mr. Duke, an actor himself, was able to amass a great cast and he got performances that are amazing from this first rate ensemble.
The cast headed by the brilliant Laurence Fishburn is amazing. Mr. Fishburn is basically the whole reason for watching the film. His Bumpy Johnson is a larger than life figure in that era. Tim Roth also is quite amazing as Dutch Schultz, a white man who saw the hidden treasures of the black community of Harlem and tried to capitalize in that world. Andy Garcia plays Lucky Luciano, an Italian man who also was instrumental in the criminal activities one sees in the film.
Also in the cast, Vanessa Williams, Cicely Tyson, Loretta Devine, William Atherton, Queen Latifah, and the rest, respond well to Mr. Duke's command.
The film is entertaining and will not disappoint fans of the genre, or of Mr. Duke.
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