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Hoodlum

4.5 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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(Feb 04, 1998)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Fishburne heads an all-star ensemble in this epic Godfather-styled tale chronicling the rise of Ellsworth "Bump" Johnson, who became king of the numbers racket in 1930s Harlem.

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A flawed but admirably ambitious gangster movie, Hoodlum aspires to be a kind of Harlem-based equivalent to The Godfather, and while it falls short of that lofty goal it's still got plenty of qualities to make it well worth seeing. It's the first film to tell the story of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (charismatically played by Laurence Fishburne), an ex-convict who dominated the Harlem numbers racket during the 1930s and '40s. As he rises to power he gains equally powerful enemies, including hotheaded Bronx gangster Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) and the suave mobster Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia). Determined to defend his Harlem turf against these invaders, Bumpy eclipses the "policy queen" Stephanie St. Clair (Cicely Tyson) and becomes a self-styled Robin Hood figure, attracting the attention of a community servant (Vanessa Williams) who must confront the brutality of Bumpy's business. A must-see for anyone who likes gangster movies, Hoodlum is certainly not a masterpiece, but sharp performances and some powerful scenes make it an interesting look at a little-known chapter in criminal history. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, Vanessa Williams, Andy Garcia, Cicely Tyson
  • Directors: Bill Duke
  • Writers: Chris Brancato
  • Producers: Laurence Fishburne, Bill Duke, Chris Brancato, Frank Mancuso Jr., Helen Sugland
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: February 4, 1998
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0792838076
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,277 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hoodlum" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 16, 1999
Format: DVD
Hoodlum is based upon the true story of Harlem's most unsung hero. Ellesworth "Bumpy" Johnson was an icon in the Harlems number racket and was a man who helped keep the Italian mobsters from taking over Harlem's underworld sooner than they did. He kept peace between rival Italian gangsters and was well respected by most of them. This man actually lived and Hoodlum portrays an accurate interpretation of his life. I rank it on the same level as the Godfather. It was a well acted and suspensefull movie. It is a must see true story based upon people who actually lived. All gangster film lovers must see this. All people who are interested in the history of Harlem's criminal underworld that kept the people from starving during the Depression must see this movie.
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Format: DVD
Among other criticisms of this film was that it was a below average gangster flick, well I didn't see it that way. There was a lot of focus on the characters especially Fishburne's character Bumpy Johnson. Of course the movie highlights his rise in Harlem as opposed to Tim Roth's character (can't spell his name). The dialog was well written, I think that people were not ready for a gangster flick set during the era of Lucky Luciano and the Dutchman, involving a significant number of black characters. Yes I think African Americans were doing something during that time period besides wait for Dr.King to have his "dream". Fishburne played a strong character who took his destiny in his own hands and I think that's really what makes this film highly enjoyable to see.
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By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
It may not be Goodfellas or The Godfather, but Hoodlum surely holds its own as a great gangster movie. Not much is known about Bumpy Johhnson, perhaps the most powerful black gangster of his time, and this movie brought his story to light. This film is time spent very, VERY well.
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Format: DVD
This movie might not have won any awards or gotten praise by these high brow snobs but its still an excellent piece of work directed by Bill Duke(who stared in Commando, Predator, Exit Wounds, National Security and Busta Rhymes' Dangerous video) with excellent performances from an all-star cast.
Set in the Depression Era of 1930s Harlem, The only way people could make money was through the "Numbers racket which is ran by Stephanie St. Clair(Cicely Tyson) also known as " The Queen". An arrogant and brash gangster called Dutch Schultz wants to take control of the numbers game and ends up bumping heads with Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson(Laurence Fishburne) who is just released from jail. These two get into a series of wars and everything starts to get out of control. Laurence Fishburne as well as Tim Roth were great in this film. Andy Garcia played it mellow as Lucky Luciano but he was better here than he was in 8 Million Ways To Die. There are also some solid performances here by Cicely Tyson, Chi Mcbride(Illinois) and Vanessa Williams(Bumpy's love interest). As far as complaints I have none. Hoodlum is well written and well acted. It pays homage to gangsters but doesnt glorify them. I tip my hat of to Bill Duke for this one. Two thumbs up as high up as they can go.
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Format: DVD
this is another one of those good films of street life brought to motion picture. hoodlum is a whole different kind of movie. it was a whole nother world out there in harlem back in the day, and this films delivers just that. it was a street war out there. survival of the smartest, and you can trust no one. everything was done so well. the era and the story. it's all about this man bumpy's survival and trying to help his people. he has to stay strong, dependent, legite, and honest to the best of his ability for his fellow people. that makes him a strong leader. someone everyone looks up to, that people want to be. he's runnin the streets of harlem, and for a while all is fine, until the one and only dutch moves in and tries to take over. he comes in violent and is a man of action and and many words. that's when all hell comes loose, and a street war begins. blood spills, things spiral out of control, and it seems bumpy's loosin the reigns of control. until he seeks the help of famous mobster lucky luciano to aide him in this rivalry against the dutch. all the while his friends get wacked, and his love can take no more and leaves. one day he's on top of the world and the next he's down, but always watching his back. it's a battle of the strongest, and smartest. racial tensions, and money are a deadly combination. superb film, one of the best, and it'll have your attention all the way through. laurence fishburne, as bumpy, is a wonderful actor. he kicks it like hell in his movies. this is no exception, great job, and he plays the part very well. andy garcia, as lucky luciano, is a classic man himself. fits the part, and has a strong presence no doubt. as for tim roth, as dutch schultz, the man's crazy. he's lost his damn mind.Read more ›
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By Tish on February 12, 2006
Format: DVD
This movie, contrary to what others have said, is a great black gangsta film. What draws my attention the most, and makes this such a great film is the dialouge between the characters. This film makes one feel as though they are stepping into the 30's and getting a good glance at life back them. Great script, and excellent acting on the parts of Fishbourne and Tyson. The set was done great, but overall I was most impressed with the interaction between characters. The lives of blacks in Harlem portrayed thru their cultural accent and gift of gab.
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