Harlem Nights Reviews
Murphy did his thing directing this movie with a superb cast of A list actors from this generation and times past. An awesome comedic flow to release anyone's tensions from a hard days work. So just sit back relax and laugh out loud! Enjoy!
Critics Ratings show the stark contrast in how some view black comedies compared to most Americans. Most critics are out of touch.
A Great fun comedy.
Harlem Nights has an interesting context. Though the humour in the film is very stereotypical of African-American characters from Eddie Murphy films, in a nice change of pace from the more lower class characters viewers are used to, Harlem Nights is composed mainly of African-Americans in the higher class of Harlem, a working class setting. It is interesting to see, and the production design of the film really sets it up like an old time gangster movie setting. Everything in Harlem Nights looks good with much colourful detail put into the production design and the Academy Award nominated costumes, making the setup feel very legitimate. And the way it is captured with the cinematography is terrific. Harlem Nights is a thoroughly stylish feature making it a treat on the eyes, and the musical score of the film is also an ice touch. If only it were nearly as much of a treat on the brain as it were on the eyes.
The script in the film is relatively lazy. With the characters being largely racial stereotypes, the dialogue in the film does not focus too much on the plot but just spends so much time emphasizing that the characters like to swear a lot. It is very lazily assembled, relying on the natural talents of the cast members to supply most of the humour. Though Harlem Nights does indeed feature a strong collection of cast members who easily work with the stereotypical roles handed to them by the screenplay, the actual characters in the film are thin and there are so many of them who just reinforce this notion. To add to this, the plot in the film ends up scattered, borrowing generic elements from many other films and failing to tie them into a plot well at all. It just ends up confusing and boring, not strong enough to be worth keeping up with as it is just a bunch of loose gangster plot points shoddily constructed into the narrative. Some of the ridiculous moments of dialogue in the film are worth a chuckle, but it is not a coherent film and is not constructed well enough to be a strong piece of filmmaking. For a debut feature, Eddie Murphy proves that the only thing about him as a director is creating a film with style and gathering a strong cast because ultimately his best role in cinema is to be in front of the camera as opposed to behind it. The film is basically his version of Citizen Kane as he wrote, directed and starred in it. Unfortunately, he doesn't really do much in any of the areas except for creating a scattered film which happens to look good. Even his performance is lacklustre because his role matches the inconsistent tone of the film, almost as if he really wants to go straight in the film. He doesn't put any over the top comedic virtues into his performance and so he is overshadowed by the superior comedic talents of many of the cast members around him. I don't know precisely what angle he was going for in Harlem Nights, but whatever direction he took clearly did not work despite the fact that it clearly had potential.
That atmosphere of Harlem Nights seems so serious at times. For a film with such a crude script, the story itself seems to take itself very seriously as a gangster tale. It gets too caught up in that theme so much of the time that it forgets to be a comedy, while at others it attempts to implement a light atmosphere in during some very sserious themes. The tone in Harlem Nights is thoroughly inconsistent, and its inability to consistently walk the line between being a comedy and a crime drama. All in all, Harlem Nights wants to be a legitimate gangster film and a parody of one, but Eddie Murphy fails to find the right balance to make it work. The only slight value that comes from the humourous intentions of the film are the performances of the cast.
Richard Pryor is a decent lead in Harlem Nights. Though he is hardly as funny as you would hope due to the fact that his role is more of a serious one than a character that matches his stereotypical stage persona, he acts out the part well and shares a strong chemistry with the surrounding cast. He interacts well with Eddie Murphy in particular, and considering the influence that he has over Eddie Murphy it is awesome to see them on screen together even if the material is not as good as it should be. Richard Pryor isn't perfect, but he is welcome in Harlem Nights.
Redd Foxx is nice to see in his final cinematic performance. Considering his legacy in African-American entertainment, he is a thoroughly welcome cast member. And considering that the script in the film allows him to use more edgy language, it is fun to see him have his moments in Harlem Nights.
Della Reese is a nice touch because in contrast to some of her more gentle roles such as in the television series Touched By an Angel she really goes over the top and delivers a really funny supporting effort during her brief period of screen time in Harlem Nights.
Danny Aiello makes a solid villain due to the fact that he approaches the role fully seriously and with a sense of true grit, and Arsenio Hall is a funny touch.
But despite a solid cast and a stylish look, Eddie Murphy's inexperienced directorial work over Harlem Nights ensures that the story ends up more misguided and scattered than his script had already set it up to be, ensuring that the tone of the film is never consistent with humour or crime and that it is just not as funny as it should be.