Hoodlum (1997)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

The numbers game was a major racket in 1930's Harlem, and African American crime boss Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson was its undisputed king until psychotic white mobster Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) decided he wanted the lucrative district's gambling business for himself and was willing to get it by force. Schultz's nominal boss Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia) also wants a piece of the action, but he would rather negotiate as would the soft-spoken Johnson who is as much a gentleman as he is a vicious gangster. Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) was at one time an idealist who, after his parole in 1934, returned to his native Harlem to work as a thug for Stephanie "Queen" St. Clair (Cicely Tyson). He is a hard case, and with ruthless efficiency he soon becomes her right-hand man. When she is eventually caught and sentenced to prison, she makes Bumpy promise to stay away from violence. He tries, but the sordid nature of his business makes it impossible. Though outwardly a cold-blooded sort, community social worker Francine Huges (Vanessa Williams) sees some good in him and so becomes emotionally involved in hopes of convincing him to leave criminal life. But despite her good intentions, the lure of power and easy money coupled with a bloody war with Schultz are too much for Bumpy and only serves to make him even worse. This crime drama features considerable violence.
R (for violence and thematic elements)
Action & Adventure , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
905 Corporation

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Laurence Fishburne
as Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson
Tim Roth
as Dutch Schultz
Vanessa L. Williams
as Francine Hughes
Andy Garcia
as Lucky Luciano
Cicely Tyson
as Stephanie St. Clair
Chi McBride
as Illinois Gordon
Richard Bradford
as Capt. Foley
William Atherton
as Thomas Dewey
Loretta Devine
as Pigfoot Mary
Mike Starr
as Albert Salke
Beau Starr
as Jules Salke
Paul Benjamin
as Whispers
Joe Guzaldo
as Bo Weinberg
Ed O'Ross
as Lulu Rosenkrantz
J.W. Smith
as Calvin
Eddie B. Smith
as Tee-Ninchy
David Darlow
as Johnny `Figures' DiPalmero
Steve Pickering
as Lucky's Henchman
Ellis Foster
as Undertaker
Bill Henderson
as Mr. Redmond
Juan A. Ramirez
as Enrique `Henry' Miro
Kevin Morrow
as Waldo/Church Conductor
Tony Fitzpatrick
as Dutch's Driver
Tab Baker
as Willie Brunder
Joe Van Slyke
as Warden
Daniel Bryant
as Hep-Cat Man
Don James
as Piano Man
Sulanya 'Sue' Conway
as Miss Philmore
Paul Eckstein
as Dutch's Thug
Jackie Taylor
as Mrs. Andrews
Dick Gjonola
as Owney Madden
David Nisbet
as Man In Cotton Club
Nancy Nickel
as Woman In Cotton Club
Ted Love
as Runner
Kenya Cagle
as Runner
Jim Saltouros
as Lieutenant
Marc Vann
as Dutch's Liquor Henchman
Cheridah Best
as Prostitute
Iris Lieberman
as Female Prison Guard
John M. Watson Sr.
as Manager of Pool Hall
Eric Kilpatrick
as Security Guard
Tony Powell
as Rent Party Singer
Louis Price
as Church Singer
Vernon Oliver Price
as Church Singer
Laurnea Wilkerson
as Cotton Club Singer
Tony Rich
as Duke Ellington
Kim Adams
as Show Girl
Fred A. Nelson
as Sideline Musician
Robert Keating
as Luciano's Mob Boss
Charles Koysta
as Luciano's Mob Boss
Joe Testa
as Luciano's Mob Boss
Rocky McCord
as Luciano's Mob Boss
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Critic Reviews for Hoodlum

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (7)

The Sting-like ending with its crosses and double-crosses could have been better handled, but there are plenty of other payoffs.

December 31, 1999
USA Today
Top Critic

Impressively mounted if overly familiar gangster tale.

Full Review… | July 24, 2016
Creative Loafing

This slow-going, talky film is in a constant struggle to hold the audience's interest.

Full Review… | February 13, 2009

It contains nothing of any lingering interest. On the other hand, Laurence Fishburne may be the only man on the planet who makes that mustache look good.

November 1, 2002
Flipside Movie Emporium

A collection of elements rather than a distinct story, the film takes what should have been a fresh perspective on the genre and paints by numbers.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Film Journal International

Quote not available.

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Hoodlum

People who have seen American Gangster or are regular viewers of the TV show, Mobsters, will know who Bumpy Johnson was and know the story behind Hoodlum. For those of you who don't, Johnson was a member of an organized crime group, in Harlem, during the 1930's. He was also the man who mentored and inspired Denzel Washington's character of Frank Lucas in American Gangster. Long before that film, the story of Bumpy Johnson was told in Hoodlum. This was one of those little told stories about the mafia that started out very strong. Unfortunately, I felt that the writers went into far too much detail at certain points in the film and by the end it was definitely dragging on. Laurence Fishburne stars as Johnson and did an adequate job, my problem with his has always been he lacks emotion in his acting. In my humble opinion this should automatically disqualify him from certain things and this probably should have been one of those things. Tim Roth is Dutch Schultz and while Schultz had a reputation for being a character, Roth went a little over the top with it, but was still very entertaining. My favorite performance was of course the one by Andy Garcia as Lucky Luciano, but he really wasn't in the film much and that's a shame, because nobody plays a crime boss better than hen does. Hoodlum is a wild ride about an incredible true story, but as a film, it was a mix of terrific scenes and some slower unnecessary elements. As a film it's not the best, but it's worth watching just for the amazing story that is being told.

Todd Smith
Todd Smith

Super Reviewer

It doesn't quite work.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

A really good gangster flick with a top notch cast. Each and every one of them pulled it off. The flick came off a little predictable but entertaining none the less. I really enjoyed Tim Roth in this flick. Every time he plays the villain he manages to put forth that right amount of ooze that makes you hate him but makes you love to watch him work as well. Fishburne comes off cool and collected though all the movie even when pushed to the edge. The twist plan at the end wasn't much of a plan but it got the job done. I would have liked to see Fishburne take the matter into his own hands but this will do just fine. Recommended for any gangster flick fans.

Jason Spencer
Jason Spencer

Super Reviewer

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