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Harlem Nights (1989)

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During the 1930s, a New York City illegal gambling house owner and his associates must deal with strong competition, gangsters, and corrupt cops in order to stay in business.

Director:

Eddie Murphy

Writer:

Eddie Murphy
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Popularity
2,863 ( 481)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Eddie Murphy ... Quick
Richard Pryor ... Sugar Ray
Redd Foxx ... Bennie Wilson
Danny Aiello ... Phil Cantone
Michael Lerner ... Bugsy Calhoune
Della Reese ... Vera
Berlinda Tolbert ... Annie
Stan Shaw ... Jack Jenkins
Jasmine Guy ... Dominique La Rue
Vic Polizos ... Richie Vento
Lela Rochon ... Sunshine
David Marciano ... Tony
Arsenio Hall ... Crying Man
Thomas Mikal Ford ... Tommy Smalls (as Tommy Ford)
Uncle Ray Murphy Uncle Ray Murphy ... Willie (as Uncle Ray)
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Storyline

"Sugar" Ray is the owner of an illegal casino, who contend with the pressures of vicious gangsters and corrupt policemen who want to see him go out of business. In the world of organized crime and police corruption in the 1930s, any dastardly trick is fair.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They're up to something big.

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 November 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Los reyes de la noche See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$16,096,808, 19 November 1989, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$60,864,870

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$95,900,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Harlem Nights" was also the working title for Ralph Bakshi's film, Coonskin (1975). Both films featured the crime racket in Harlem as a plot point. Richard Pryor was also believed to be a fan of Coonskin (1975). See more »

Goofs

After Jack Jenkins leaves Sugar Ray's and Quick's table in the restaurant, they talk about the 3 to 1 odds they will receive on Jenkins for the upcoming fight. When Phil and Bugsy are talking in the sauna, They say the odds for Jenkins' opponent, Kirkpatrick are 3 to 1. They are saying that the odds on both fighters are the same. See more »

Quotes

Bennie Wilson: Excuse me, I got somethin' in my eye.
Crapshooter: Well, get it the fuck out yer eye, you blind motherfucker!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Serial Mom (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Black Beauty
Written by Duke Ellington
See more »

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User Reviews

Trashed by critics with no logic at all
5 November 2001 | by ClamsSee all my reviews

The most common thing critics said to trash Harlem Nights was that it was too profane to be set in 1938. Well, this statement here was completely without logic. Two points to back myself up:

1. In almost every 1930's/40's/50's gangster movie, the characters

are very profane. Look at any movie directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci for evidence of this

2. What do you expect from a movie starring Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx? If you expect these three men to watch their language, you are truly a stranger in the ways of their material

As for the movie's sexist feel, I cannot dispute this. However, I can defend it. I am not a sexist young man despite being only

twenty-one years of age. I feel that women should have the same rights as men. However, I think Eddie Murphy was young and dumb and only felt the way he did because he was not mature enough to understand women. Now he is happily married and expecting his fifth child, so I think he is a little wiser today.

As for one review I read that said every white man was a bigot in this movie. Guys, come on, it's Harlem in 1938!

Despite all of this, the movie is a well-made, well-characterized, entertaining film. It was taken too seriously when it was first released, and I'm glad many people here seem to agree with me.

The plot concerns Sugar Ray (Pryor, who was sadly the only disappointing performer here) and his adopted son Vernest Brown, a.k.a. Quick (Murphy) owners of the hottest nightclub in Harlem. It becomes the target of gangster Bugsy Calhoune (an impressive performance by Michael Learner) and his buddy Sgt. Phil Cantone (A terrific Danny Aiello). They plot with their employees to scam him out of his money by placing a fake bet on a boxing match and leave Harlem.

The movie is not without plot holes and the occasional bad line of dialogue, but other than that, it's funny and entertaining. A particular highlight are Foxx's nearsighted Bennie Wilson and Reese's Vera Walker, who exchange profane banter throughout the film, which is hilarious. A cameo by longtime Murphy friend Arsenio Hall (whom I usually dislike) as a crybaby mobster is also very funny. Don't listen to the critics, this movie is funny as hell!


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