Director Bill Duke's biopic of 30s Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson isn't quite up there with 'The Godfather' but it's pretty damn good. The plot focuses on Bumpy fighting a gang war against Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) over control of the numbers racket in Harlem, with Andy Garcia's Lucky Luciano calmly picking sides. Elmer Bernstein's deliberately old-fashioned and romantic orchestral score is beautiful. Duke's filmmaking is classically styled too, long slow pans and crossfade scene transitions. The dialogue is full of flavour that feels authentic to the location and the time period.
Fun Facts: Laurence Fishburne was effectively reprising the same role from Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 film 'The Cotton Club' (the venue briefly appears in 'Hoodlum' too) and although Clarence Williams III plays a different gangster here, he would go on to play Bumpy in Ridley Scott's 2007 film 'American Gangster'. A prequel TV-series to Scott's film came out at the end of last year with Forest Whitaker in the Bumpy role and it's written by Chris Brancato, who was the writer on 'Hoodlum'.
The trailer makes it look like a violent action flick...
...but it's more of a historical character drama, like in this scene...