[Screen It]


(1997) (Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Extreme Extreme Moderate Extreme
Mild Minor Mild None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Moderate Minor Mild Extreme

Drama: A Harlem based crime family takes on the Bronx syndicate that's moved in on their territory in 1930's New York.
It's the 1930's and New York City is in the throes of the great depression. Crime families rule the city, and in Harlem the syndicate is run by the "Queen," Madame Stephanie St. Claire (CICELY TYSON). The city's biggest and strongest family, run by Lucky Luciano (ANDY GARCIA), pretty much leaves Harlem alone, but that doesn't hold true for the family run by Dutch Schultz (TIM ROTH). This racketeer's fortunes once flourished during prohibition, but since its repeal his income from bootlegging has diminished and he decides to move in on an easy target, Harlem's "numbers" game. Hiring that area's once feared gang leader, Bob Hewlett (CLARENCE WILLIAMS III), as his right hand man, Dutch begins to control Harlem. This doesn't sit well with Harlem native Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (LAURENCE FISHBURNE) who's just been paroled from prison. When Dutch's men become violent, Bumpy decides to strike back, much to the concern of the "Queen." When she's arrested, however, by Captain Foley (RICHARD BRADFORD), who's on Dutch's payroll, Bumpy takes over the family with the help of his cousin, Illinois Garden (CHI McBRIDE). He decides to strike back directly at Dutch causing the feared gangster to step up his own violence, all of which upsets Francine Hughes (VANESSA WILLIAMS), a city social worker and Bumpy's new girlfriend. Soon Lucky has to step in to stop their bloody public feud before it draws the wrath of the feds, particulary special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey (WILLIAM ATHERTON). The two sides aren't willing to negotiate, however, and the violent feud continues until it leads up to a bloody conclusion.
Younger kids probably won't, although teens might, particularly if they're fans of someone in the cast.
For graphic ganster violence, strong langauge, a scene of sexuality and some nudity.
None of the cast members are good role models since they're either gangsters, are affiliated with gangsters, or are "on the take" from them.


OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Loosely based on true life characters and events that occurred during the 1930's, "Hoodlum" is an often riveting feature filled with great performances. Director Bill Duke ("Deep Cover," "A Rage in Harlem") has perfectly captured the look and feel of the time and adds a racial element to the organized crime story that creates a more complex and interesting plot. From the supporting characters up through the lead actors, the performances range from good to stupendous. Actor Tim Roth fills the latter adjective with a stunning take on the infamous gangster Dutch Shultz. Supplying that character with more than an ample supply of crazed, venom-filled indifference, Roth creates a memorable character and it won't be a surprise if he's nominated for the year's best Supporting Actor category. Fishburne delivers his usual intense take on a character, and Garcia is perfectly cast in the role of Luciano, but of course after playing in the last "Godfather" movie, it's not heard to accept him here. Our one objection to the film is its length. At a running time of nearly two and a half hours, the film feels too long although other gangster movies have successfully run that length or longer. Whether it's a lack of enough material to fill that time or just the way it's presented, the film occasionally gets tedious and a bit of trimming would have done it some good. There are also a few questionable elements, such as Francine shooting someone after Bumpy just asked her whether there was anything in her life that she'd kill for. Additionally, she too quickly hops into bed with Bumpy and too easily accepts his lifestyle after earlier condemning it (after all, he is a killer). It's not until her friend is killed that she once again questions him, and all of that seems too contrived and designed more for dramatic purposes than logical progression. These are just minor bits of criticism, however, in a film that for the most part is well-made and as said earlier, features some of the year's better performances. We were impressed by "Hoodlum" and give it a 7.5 out of 10.
Despite our above praise, this is a very violent film that won't be suitable for some audiences and definitely not for most children. Beyond the brutally graphic and often extremely bloody violence, there is also an abundance of bad attitudes, particularly from Dutch who spouts ethnic slurs without a second thought. There is also a scene with implied oral sex and another where full frontal and rear female nudity is briefly viewed. As in most gangster movies, profanity is extreme with 60+ "f" words and an assortment of others. While most children will probably pass over this film, you should examine the content should you or they wish to see it.

  • People drink martinis and cocktails in many of the club scenes.
  • Illinois drinks from a flask in several scenes.
  • Illinois is drunk after finding his dead girlfriend.
  • Dutch and another man drink beer.
  • Many people are shot or knifed (see "Violence") and thus there's a great deal of bloodshed. We see many bloody bodies and bullet holes, as well as the occasional pool of blood near murdered people on the street. In addition, people who've been injured/tortured often have streams of blood running from their mouths.
  • Dutch places two dried testicles on a table.
  • Bumpy delivers a bloody, cut off finger to Dutch.
  • Nearly everyone in this story has some of both in one way or another. Most of the main characters are killers, and if not that, are on "the take" from the killers such as Capt. Foley and special prosecutor Dewey. Additionally, Dutch uses derogatory ethnic slurs toward many different people.
  • Viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as also being tense.
  • Two pick ax wielding men slowly make their way through Bumpy's place, hunting for him. There's then a great deal of violence as the two men try to kill Bumpy and Francine who must avoid being hit by the pick axes.
  • Bumpy deals with two traitors in his ranks, and his slow, burning reaction and then response to doing something to them creates some tension.
  • Bumpy and Illinois drive a truck filled with explosives set on a timer into one of Dutch's factories. They only have a few minutes to get out and are then delayed as the clock ticks down.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Machine guns/Knives: Used to threaten, injure, or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Pick ax: Wielded by two men as they try to kill Bumpy and Francine.
  • Dynamite: Used by Bumpy to blow up one of Dutch's factories.
  • Phrases: "Nigger" (said by black and white people), Other ethnic slurs: "Dago," "Spic,"and "Wop," "Balls" and "Nuts" (testicles), "Bitch," "Bastard," "Go to hell," and "Piss."
  • Since the mobster lifestyle looks attractive here (albeit when not being shot at or killed), this may reinforce some teens' attraction to gangs.
  • There is an attempt made on Bumpy's life via poisoned ice cream.
  • A man is suddenly shot while sneaking around Bumpy's place.
  • There is a mild amount of tension-filled music in a few scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 63 "f" words (6 used with "mother," and 2 used sexually), 12 "s" words, 4 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and "p" words), 1 slang term each for female genitals and breasts (the "p" and "t" words respectively), 16 asses, 7 hells, 6 damns, 1 S.O.B., and 8 uses of "G-damn," 4 uses of "Jesus Christ," and 1 use each of "Swear to Christ" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Illinois sits on a bed with his girlfriend. She wants to fool around, but he doesn't want to saying he needs to accomplish several things. She then puts her shirt over his head and says, "You need to accomplish this," but nothing else happens. Later he tells Bumpy, "There ain't nothing like the lovin' you get from a big woman."
  • Several women swim nude in a pool and then climb up out of it, revealing full frontal and rear nudity.
  • Bumpy and Francine are seen in bed together, presumably after sex, but no nudity or movement is seen.
  • A woman performs oral sex on Capt. Foley and while not explicitly seen, there's no question as to what she's doing.
  • Many people smoke throughout the movie with Dutch, Lucky and Illinois also smoking cigars in several scenes.
  • A mother grieves over her dead son at his funeral.
  • Bumpy attends Illinois' funeral.
  • The historical accuracy of the film.
  • Gangs and organized crime.
  • It's noted that Bumpy was in prison for murder.
  • Dutch's men smash a Harlem storefront window and then beat up several people, including a woman, by punching and kicking them.
  • Dutch shoots a man in the neck, killing him.
  • Dutch's men ambush Bumpy and the Queen on the street and many people are shot and killed on both sides of the gunfire that also causes a truck to explode.
  • Bumpy hits one of Dutch's men with a money bag and then slugs a waiting driver.
  • Two of Bumpy's men are killed (one shot, the other knifed) by pick ax wielding men who then attack Bumpy and Francine. Many swipes are taken with the pick axes along with punches from both parties. In the end, both intruders are shot dead.
  • The police attack one of Bumpy's men, kicking and hitting him with their billy clubs.
  • There's a montage showing a great deal of violence between Bumpy and Dutch's men, with many people shot and killed, and a quick glimpse of a man's head being held underwater.
  • One of Bumpy's "runners" is shot and killed.
  • There is an attempt made on Bumpy's life via poisoned ice cream. Bumpy then smacks the guilty waiter and makes him eat the rat poison at gunpoint.
  • A man's throat is slit.
  • Bumpy delivers a cut off finger to Dutch.
  • An explosion blows up Dutch's factory and his men shoot at Bumpy and Illinois who escape in a car.
  • Illinois finds his girlfriend dead.
  • Capt. Foley and his men hit Illinois many times. Later, Illinois is strung up and is very bloody from Foley torturing him with a large screw. Later, Bumpy and his men find Illinois' body hoisted up on a wall.
  • Bumpy slits Capt. Foley's throat and then threatens Hewlett with the same.
  • Dutch hits Lucky's accountant, holds a gun to his head, and finally shoots him several times.
  • Another man is shot dead and his assassin is then shot and his body is dumped from a car onto the sidewalk.

  • Reviewed August 21, 1997

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