USA Today - 08/27/1997
"...Charging the action is an electric three-prong attack: Laurence Fishburne as magnetic Johnson, Tim Roth as a wonderfully no-class Schultz and Andy Garcia as a cool and cocky Luciano..." -- 3 out of 4 stars
New York Times - 08/27/1997
"...Mr. Fishburne is as coolly ruthless as Al Pacino's Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER....Ms. Tyson is also memorable..."
Entertainment Weekly - 09/05/1997
"...This is Duke's most accomplished job of direction yet. He gets a juicy performance out of Tim Roth..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 08/27/1997
"...Duke has made a historical drama as much as a thriller..."
HOODLUM stars Laurence Fishburne in a powerful performance as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the notorious Harlem gangster of the 1930s. Director Bill Duke mixes a sumptuous visual style with a message of black empowerment. Bumpy gets out of prison and goes to work for the Harlem numbers powerhouse known as Madam Queen (Cicely Tyson), bringing him into conflict with the psychopathic Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth), who is trying to take over the numbers racket in Harlem. As the blood flows through Harlem streets, those around Bumpy begin to question his methods-- and his morals.
Bill Duke's HOODLUM, with its rich visuals, brutal violence, and moral probing, pays homage to THE GODFATHER and other classic gangster films while exploring the nature of black empowerment as it relates to criminality. The film is Duke's second collaboration with Laurence Fishburne, and as with DEEP COVER, Fishburne delivers a compelling performance. He plays Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the legendary Harlem gangster of the 1930s who fought Dutch Schultz for control of the numbers racket. Tim Roth is hilariously grotesque as Schultz, a villain whose foul mouth sets a new cinematic standard. Duke gets strong performances from Andy Garcia as Lucky Luciano and Chi McBride as Bumpy's right-hand man, Illinois. Vanessa Williams plays Francine, a social activist who loves Bumpy but can't understand the violent path he's chosen. Bumpy, a surprisingly civic-minded criminal, goes to war with Schultz to protect Harlem from the interloper, but as the body count mounts in the community he's trying to protect, he ends up losing the support of those closest to him. The film's uneasy mix of mayhem and humor makes for compelling viewing, and the moral questions it raises about black empowerment and criminality only add to the intrigue.