Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bill Duke|
|Produced by||Frank Mancuso, Jr.|
|Written by||Chris Brancato|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Editing by||Harry Keramidas|
|Release dates||August 27, 1997|
|Running time||130 minutes|
|Box office||$23,461,013 (USA)|
Hoodlum is a 1997 crime drama film that gives a fictionalized account of the gang war between the Italian/Jewish mafia alliance and the Black gangsters of Harlem that took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The film concentrated on Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne), Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth), and Lucky Luciano (Andy García).
Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) is paroled from Sing Sing by the warden (Joe Van Slyke), who is impressed by Johnson's conduct while incarcerated, even though he still believes Johnson does not regret committing the murder that sent him to prison. Johnson returns to Harlem and reunites with friends, most notably Illinois Gordon (Chi McBride). Johnson is quickly established as a highly respected member of the community, and his friends include Stephanie "Madam Queen" St. Clair (Cicely Tyson), who runs the numbers racket in Harlem despite competition from the Italian Mafia.
Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth), a Mafia associate who reports to mob boss Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia), asks to partner with the Queen, who declines the offer, as she disapproves of the violent tactics Schultz uses to terrorize her customers. Later a hit is ordered by Dutch on the Queen; however Whispers (Paul Benjamin) and Bumpy repel the attackers. Using his friendship with a corrupt Captain Foley (Richard Bradford), of the New York City Police Department, Schultz arranges for the Queen to be arrested, and the Queen asks Johnson to take charge of the business during her incarceration. The Queen instructs Johnson to avoid bloodshed, but Schultz's men grow increasingly violent.
Bumpy and Dutch go to war with each other, however Bumpy gets the upperhand on Dutch. The war continues but turns into a stalemate. Dutch tired of the stalemate pays Vallie (John Toles-Bey) (one of Bumpy's bodyguards) to recommend a kid be hired at the ice cream shoppe, who then puts poison in Bumpy's banana split. Bumpy realizes something is wrong when his banana split has almonds on it and the store owner knows he hates almonds. Bumpy makes the kid tell who recommended him and they then know it was Vallie. Whispers kills Vallie with a straight razor. Bumpy and Illinois hatch a plan to break the stalemate by blowing up one of Dutch's liquor warehouses. This causes Dutch to want revenge. So he kills Illinois' lover, Mary (Loretta Devine).
Illinois is devastated by Mary's death. He gets drunk and blames Bumpy for everything. He tells Bumpy he's through and leaves. As he's walking down the street, Captain Foley and Bub Hewlett (Clarence Williams III) see him, kidnap him and chain him up in a machinery room. Foley beats him and wants to torture him for information. Hewlett says Illinois isn't going to talk and wants him let go. He leaves but Foley kills him using a corkscrew. Eager to end the war between each faction, Luciano decides to try and make the two men come to an agreement, although neither wants to compromise. Later that evening, Whispers informs Bumpy they found Illinois body. He was left hanging by a chain outside the building he was killed in. A local witness tells them that he saw a man with Captain's bars with Illinois shortly before his murder. Bumpy immediately knows who it is and gets his revenge on Foley after finding him in a room with a prostitute and cutting his throat. As Bumpy is leaving, he sees Bub Hewlett and asks if he had a hand in Illinois' murder. He denies any involvement so Bumpy spares him and tells him that he now owes him.
Bumpy has a meeting with Bub and tells him that it's not in his best interest to continue working for Dutch. Bumpy later contacts Luciano and tells him that he wants to compromise. Luciano agrees to the terms and they devise a plan to kill Dutch. Cecil, Luciano's driver, appears to betray Luciano and Bumpy by telling Dutch what they are planning. Cecil, however, is being paid by Bumpy to do so. Believing he now has the upper hand, Dutch plans the murder of Luciano and Bumpy but fails to do so. Luciano and Bumpy's plan is revealed when Lulu (Ed O'Ross) (Dutch's right hand man) follows Dutch into the restroom and shoots him three times. Dutch walks out of the restroom and down the stairs, sits down at a table and drops dead. Lulu walks outside, gets in Luciano's car and asks to be paid but instead of paying him, an associate of Luciano's shoots him dead and his body is dumped on the sidewalk.
The last scene shows Bumpy asking Bub if those involved have been paid. Bub says yes. Now the Queen is back in business. Johnson tells Bub that he has some unfinished business and Bub says he's going to go get some sleep. The two shake hands and part company. Bumpy then walks across the street and enters the church to briefly pay his final respects to Illinois, then turns and walks out.
- Laurence Fishburne as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson
- Tim Roth as Dutch Schultz
- Vanessa L. Williams as Francine Hughes
- Andy García as Charles "Lucky" Luciano
- Cicely Tyson as Stephanie St. Clair/Madam Queen
- Chi McBride as Illinois Gordon
- Clarence Williams III as Bub Hewlett
- Richard Bradford as Captain Foley
- William Atherton as Thomas E. Dewey
- Loretta Devine as Pigfoot Mary
- Queen Latifah as Sulie
- Ed O'Ross as Lulu Rosenkrantz
- Mike Starr as Albert Salke
- Beau Starr as Jules Salke
- Paul Benjamin as Whispers
- Tony Rich as Duke Ellington
- Kim Adams as show girl
- J.W. Smith as Calvin
Critic Roger Ebert noted that "the film is being marketed as a violent action picture, and in a sense, it is" and that director Bill Duke having made "a historical drama as much as a thriller, and his characters reflect a time when Harlem seemed poised on the brink of better things, and the despair of the postwar years was not easily seen on its prosperous streets."