Director Bill Duke Hit A Home Run With This Film.
Although the film depicts a somewhat factual portrait of Harlem's North Side New York City, we actually must realize that the story comes many from urban legend. The film was actually shot in Chicago since the older style buildings seem to still be standing and appear more in line with 1930.
This film focuses on the war of two gangs in 1930s Harlem for the control of illegal lottery gaming called "the numbers racket" - one headed by a black strategic godfather Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) and another by a white ruthless hothead named Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth). Negotiations proposed by the syndicate boss, Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia), never gets under way.
The film begins with "Bumpy" getting out of jail and going to work as the main enforcer for the powerful controlling racketeer Stephanie "The Queen of Harlem" St. Clair (Cicely Tyson). Later, The Queen also goes to jail for racketeering and tells "Bumpy" to run the bank for her with absolutely "No Violence". By the time "Bumpy" takes over the business, he has convinced himself that getting revenge is the only answer and that he is the only only who can stamp out resistance against the invasion from the merciless mobster Dutch Shultz.
The most inaccurate historical error about this film would probably be the depiction of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson beating Dutch Schultz in the end. Facts are Johnson lost the Harlem gang war to Dutch Schultz. Schultz's brutality, financial resources, and manpower proved to be way too much for the Harlem mob to compete with, and they slowly disbanded their operations. Many of them, including Bumpy, ended up working for Schultz, either overseeing one of his various gambling operations or acting as loan sharks/enforcers.
We find that the story gets really fast toward the end, so I wanted to give a breakdown of what really happened at the end. Bumpy convinces Bub Hewitt to join him and betray Dutch. Bumpy has a meeting with Lucky Luciano, saying he will lay down his arms and make peace with Dutch. Bumpy requested that Luciano's accountant meet with him, Luciano agrees, but Bumpy had Bub pay off Luciano's driver to tell Dutch about the meeting, so they could capture Luciano's accountant and ambush Bumpy in the meeting place. Of course Bumpy wasn't present, which caused Dutch to kill Johnny, the accountant. This forced Luciano to order the hit on Dutch. He payed Dutch's most trusted bodyguard, Lulu Rosenkrantz, to kill him. Afterwards, Luciano kills Rosenkrantz instead of paying him off. Bumpy also gave a very large sum of money to Dewey to have him look past all the violence. At the end, Lucky Luciano was duped into being a mere pawn in Bumpy Johnson's plan. In real life, it was widely rumored that Dutch was killed because of his planning to kill Thomas Dewey. We may just really never know the actual facts.
Vanessa Williams gives a powerful performance as "Bumpy's" girl-friend. Cicily Tyson must also be mentioned for her outstanding performance as another powerful female who wields her influence at such a low point in our nation's history. Also, Queen Latifah, Loretta Devine, and Chi McBride give fantastic performances.
The war finally ends with with Bumpy being in control again.
I'll give this a pure home run 5/5 for it's fast movie story-line and never-ending exciting action for gangster genre. This film will go down as an achievement in film being nominate for 7 film awards.
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HOODLUM: The FIRST Part of "AMERICAN GANGSTER"
This is the story of how Harlem's famous/infamous "BUMPY" Johnson rose to prominence and respect during the gangster culture of the 1920-40's in NEW YORK CITY. The other main gangsters in here that may ring a bell is the part of the powerful mob boss LUCKY LUCCIANO, played by Andy Garcia.
In AMERICAN GANGSTER, "BUMPY" Johnson the guy who FRANK LUCAS modeled himself after dies in the beginning then FRANK LUCAS takes the reigns to control Harlem and become the next Criminal boss and druglord of heroin.