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No consensus yet.
All Critics (24)
| Top Critics (4)
| Fresh (13)
| Rotten (11)
| DVD (2)
Big and portentous, Hoffa feels like a series of acting exercises inflated to epic proportions. But as a portrait of unionism's most controversial figure, it offers only flickering illumination.
Danny De Vito's Hoffa is artfully constructed, masterfully played, and travels at speeds beyond the prescriptive norm.
Hoffa, with its jaundiced script and a director wedded to his rose-tinted spectacles, is a mess, with only the sterling truculence of Nicholson's performance to mitigate it.
DeVito is blasting away with the audacity of a film student, making Hoffa an effort of extraordinary detail, craftsmanship, and directorial ingenuity.
Nicholson's intense, volcanic performance saves this part-fact, part-fiction biopic that's a little too in awe of its subject.
An extremely underrated film. Well worth watching, again and again.
A hugely underrated, passionate, powerful biopic.
A decent, but flawed movie. The performance by Nicholson is tremendous, and he really becomes Hoffa, but the rest of the film just isn't on the same level as he is. Unless you're a big fan of Jack, or particularly interested by Hoffa, pass.
Raises many questions and gives no answers, but this shouldn't be mistaken for artistic ambiguity.
Overblown but still interesting biopic with a classy performance from Nicholson.
I don't know about the cuckoo's nest, but Jimmy Hoffa certainly flew the coop, even if he didn't necessarily want to, so if you're going to get Jack Nicholson as this charming member of organized crime (Oh yeah, what a stretch), then you may as well make up some guy in Hoffa's life for Danny DeVito to play. Now, as far as justifying DeVito's actually directing this film, well, I don't know what to tell you, because I don't know if the dude who did "Death to Smoochy" should be doing "Death to Jimmy... As in Hoffa", and it would appear as though I'm not the only one, because the Razzies had the nerve to wave a nomination over DeVito's barely hairy head. Well, then again, in all fairness, they also gave Nicholson a Worst Actor nod, even though he's really good in this film (Oh yeah, what a stretch), so I think that in 1992, the Razzies were just messing with, not necessarily this film, but DeVito himself, because he also got a Worst Supporting Actor nod for "Batman Returns", and yet Michelle Pfeiffer was totally forgiven. If you haven't stopped paying attention to this paragraph thus far because I'm rambling at this point, then I've probably lost you because you're trying to figure out whether you should cry or laugh at the fact that, for this film, Nicholson got both a Razzie nomination and Golden Globe nomination. I don't know about y'all, but I myself am busy thinking about how neat it is to see the Joker and the Penguin teaming up in the same year the sequel to Tim Burton's "Batman" came out, because I for one have my fears about Nicholson not being good in this film cleared by the fact that Nicholson is, in fact, as I said, pretty darn good. Now, this film, on the other hand, stands to be a bit stronger. Don't get me wrong, I like this film and all, it's just that it isn't exactly cleansed of some demons.
Mostly told in a flashback format, this film takes shortcuts to highlights in the intriguing story of Jimmy Hoffa, and such a storytelling method is generally tight, but much too often, the quick and easy routes taken by this saga's flow hurry things along much too much, not to the degree that I feared, but certainly to the point of really trimming down moments of slow-down that could have been put to good use to flesh this character study out. The film feels a bit underdeveloped, as it is just too busy to cook things as crisply as it probably should, and yet, with that said, bloating is just as big of an issue with the final product, which is rich with material that isn't necessarily expendable, but rather forced in, dragging out what points the film does, in fact, extensively meditate upon to the point of igniting repetition. With all of my complaints about how sloppy this film's story structure pacing is, this character study isn't as unevenly told as I feared it would be, but it is hard to deny that this is a conceptually worthy biopic that is unraveled with only so much comfort in progression, as surely as it is unraveled with only so much subtlety, even in the musical department. Later on in this review, I will go more into the strengths of David Newman's score work, which is, in a general musical sense, fairly impressive, as well as sometimes effective as a supplement to this film's atmospheric storytelling, but on the whole, as good as Newman's music is, it boasts a kind of overtly spirited and cinematic sweep that just doesn't belong in a gritty grown-up film of this type, and all too often overemphasizes atmospheric kick to the point of diluting subtlety consistently, sometimes to an overbearing point. After a while, whether it be because you get used to it or whatever, Newman's score's overbearingness dies down, but subtlety issues don't exactly die with it, because as generally genuine as this drama is, almost to the point of sparking generally, Danny DeVito, as director, doesn't explore the depths of this promising story with as much grace as he should, being overemphatic with his atmosphere and not emphatic enough with the full range of this project. If nothing else is wrong with this relatively underwhelming execution of a strong story, then it is too much ambition, something that you can't fully blame DeVito for having, but only leaves you to further soak up the issues with this film, which isn't as messy as they say, but just messy enough to stop just short of genuinely rewarding on the whole. Still, as sloppy as this effort is in several places, when it's all said and done, the final product accels just enough to entertain consistently, compel often, all but reward and even deliver on some commendable artistic touches, even when it comes to the musical aspects.
Like I said, the tastes of score composer David Newman (Alfred, my man, your boys sure are getting some work) don't always gel with this film's tone, being too spirited for a drama this gritty and, to a certain degree, formal, thus leaving the final product's subtlety issues to go particularly exacerbated by generally unfitting musicality that stands as flawed because of its not being all that fitting, or, for that matter, refreshing, which isn't to say that there's not still plenty to commend when it comes to Newman's efforts, which may be problematic in plenty of areas, but are, by their own musical right, quite competently crafted, with a lovely soul and sweep that compliments entertainment value, and even moments in the film that are, in fact, genuine and fit for Newman's tastes in their atmospheric impact. Also worthy of compliment is the tastes of Stephen H. Burum, whose photographic efforts aren't too upstanding, but often deliver on some neat camera tricks, as well as coloring that is very often with a handsome degree of grit, when not celebratory of magic moments - particularly toward the film's end - that are just plain beautiful, and memorably so. Musically and visually, this film's sharpness is hard to deny, for although the limitations of liveliness within this subject matter keep Newman's efforts from fitting all that comfortably, while the limitations of the time keep Burum's efforts from being all that fine and crist, the more artistic touches behind this project are generally worthile as supplements to commendable style, and even as compliments to the engagement value behind this film's substance, which is strong enough to earn itself quite a bit of engagement value. There's plenty of active story fabrication with this film (What ever happened to Jimmy Hoffa? Well, let good ol' Uncle Danny tell you), which is also all too often messy in its telling of this tale, yet not so much is fabricated or soppily executed that you can't see enough of the value within this intriguing, if a bit conventional story behind Jimmy Hoffa, and it helps that there are, in fact, moments in which Danny DeVito delivers as director, keeping entertainment value consistent, as well as complimented by some fairly neat stylistic touches, when not establishing moments in which his storytelling efforts are indeed tight, focused and altogether assured enough to really earn your investment, if not resonate. Sure, these moments of particularly strong storytelling on a directing DeVito's behalf are few and far between, but their undeniable presence, - limited though it may be - and being bridged by a consistent adequate degree of engagement value, almost drive the final product into a rewarding state that it's too flawed to fully achieve, but not to where your attention can't be held by the film, or the performances that do a good job of leading it. Now, there's no real bad accent work in this film, but the myriad of loud, thick accents in this film are bount to get on your nerves a little bit (If it wasn't a fact that Hoffa was having some problems with Robert Kennedy, you'd think that they tossed him, in all of thickly accented glory, just for good measure), so it's not like we're dealing with the most attractive characters with this film, yet most everyone in this talented cast delivers enough to earn your investment in them, with DeVito, as an actor, being charismatic and somewhat layered as Hoffa's fictional and somewhat corrupt longtime friend and right-hand man, while Jack Nicholson proves himself much more worthy of that Golden Globe nomination than that Razzie nomination, being, well, Jack Nicholson, but engrossing nevertheless in his slickly charming, sometimes soulful and consistently assured portrayal of Hoffa as an intriguing force. It's hard to not want a little bit more out of Nicholson's slightly underwritten performance, yet Nicholson's performance is just one of plenty of undeniably strong aspects that may not be able to fully drive this film into goodness, but come close enough for the final product to sustain your attention just enough with entertainment value and reasonable compellingness to keep you going, regardless of the hiccups.
In the end, the storytelling's flashback format hurries things along in some places, often to the point of thinning out exposition, while bloating leaves repetition to ensue, and subtlety issues - often backed by unfittingly spirited score work - help in driving the promising and almost rewarding final product just short of what it could have been, though not so much so that you can't still enjoy the film quite a bit, as there is enough musical sharpness and occasional effectiveness to David Newman's score work, visual style to Stephen H. Burum's cinematography and value to this story, brought to life by inspired moments in Danny DeVito's direction and plenty of strong performances - particularly those of DeVito and leading man Jack Nicholson - to make "Hoffa" a decent dramatic study on a highly intriguing and influential figure.
2.75/5 - Decent
Once again Jack Nicholson is over the top with his role as Jimmy Hoffa. From start to finish shows the life and uprising of Jimmy Hoffa. Danny DeVito played an excellent part also, and was surprised to see a very young John Reilly. Plenty of action, drama and suspense. If you only know what you have heard about Jimmy Hoffa, you need to see this film to get clear. I was amazed as to the added newsreels to see just how well Jack played the part. 5 Stars
"One day your gonna be president of the United States, Jim
- Fuck that. One day I'll be president of the Teamsters."
Jimmy Hoffa is a historical person I really don't know much about. I saw this only because of Jack Nicholson. Now after this, I've seen every movie he has ever been in. Nicholson does a powerful performance of the mysteriously disappeared union leader.
David Mamet is a talented screenwriter. His version of this working class hero and his life may not be historically accurate but Danny DeVito's best directorial effort is still entertaining.
"Never let a stranger in your cab, in your house or in your heart... unless he is a friend of labor."
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