Mixed or average reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 17
  2. Negative: 3 out of 17
  1. Duke is a superb director of actors, and, as in "Deep Cover", Fishburne manages to suggest a lot with a deft economy of means.
  2. 75
    Duke and his screenwriter, Chris Brancato, don't make Hoodlum into a violent action film, though it has its bloody shoot-outs, but into more of a character study.
  3. It is familiarly old-fashioned, complete with montages of newspaper clippings fluttering past and calendar days slipping by. The sets, costumes, old cars and general atmosphere all beautifully recall moviemaking of a bygone era. And for that, hats off to Duke.
  4. 75
    The Sting-like ending with its crosses and double-crosses could have been better handled, but there are plenty of other payoffs in Hoodlum. [27Aug1995 Pg02.D]
  5. 75
    While Chris Brancato's script doesn't reveal anything new or surprising (students of history and fans of "The Cotton Club" already know how this film ends), it's a competent piece of storytelling that incorporates elements of human interest with the threat of escalating violence.
  6. The director, Bill Duke ("A Rage in Harlem"), stages all of this with proficient confidence, yet he never truly summons the operatic power of the genre -- the pulp tragedy of ambition built on (and drowned in) blood.
  7. 70
    Too long by about 20 minutes, the film drags a bit, but the acting--fine throughout--carries the whole thing.
  8. Reviewed by: Leonard Klady
    Director Bill Duke renders the period saga with passion, but lacks the sort of fluid, organic style the material requires; the film falls short of its aim for mythic proportion. Still, there's a vibrancy that's engrossing, if uneven.
  9. Duke rarely operates at more than a TV movie-of-the-week level of originality, but Hoodlum is still an easy movie to enjoy.
  10. You can feel Hoodlum hungering to be bigger than it possibly can be. It wants to be "The Godfather" of African Americans, a vast tale of crime and heroism and nerve and ambition. But it tries too hard and ends up feeling spotty rather than deep. [27Aug1997 Pg D.01]
  11. Laurence Fishburne and Tim Roth play the main characters with conviction, but Bill Duke's punchy filmmaking style banishes any hope of storytelling subtlety or psychological nuance.
  12. And while Mr. Duke's direction has visual panache, the movie is unevenly paced.
  13. Reviewed by: Sandra Contreras
    Uneven and inaccurate as it may be, it's hard to wash out entirely with a movie that explores as neglected an aspect of classic gangster mythology as this one; at the same time, you can't help but wish it did so more successfully.
  14. 40
    At the very least, Hoodlum might have been better off had it been filmed in monochromatic black-and-white instead of the garish color palette (and plenty of gore) that Duke opted for because they, unfortunately, only reinforce the hamminess of the picture.
  15. Laurence Fishburne is one actor who has charisma to burn, but even his incendiary performance can't ignite Hoodlum, a would-be gangster epic that generates less heat than a nickel cigar. [27Aug1997 Pg 8]
  16. Hoodlum is an overlong gangster movie, a bloated and often laughable attempt at an epic.
  17. 10
    A conclusion featuring a dizzying string of betrayals that leads to a confusing anti-climax robs the film of even cheap action thrills, making Hoodlum an almost thoroughly forgettable experience, albeit probably the only film in history to unite Queen Latifah and The Mod Squad's Clarence Williams III.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 5 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 1 out of 4
  1. Jul 12, 2014
    Hoodlum has a cool cast and fun action expected from a mafia picture. The movie has Roth, Fishburne and
    Garcia having a ball in their roles.
    The movie isn't on the level as say Casino or Goodfellas but the movie
    delivers the action goods.
    Full Review »
  2. Feb 25, 2013
    People who have seen American Gangster or are regular viewers of the TV show, Mobsters, will know who Bumpy Johnson was and know the story behind Hoodlum. For those of you who don't, Johnson was a member of an organized crime group, in Harlem, during the 1930's. He was also the man who mentored and inspired Denzel Washington's character of Frank Lucas in American Gangster. Long before that film, the story of Bumpy Johnson was told in Hoodlum. This was one of those little told stories about the mafia that started out very strong. Unfortunately, I felt that the writers went into far too much detail at certain points in the film and by the end it was definitely dragging on. Laurence Fishburne stars as Johnson and did an adequate job, my problem with his has always been he lacks emotion in his acting. In my humble opinion this should automatically disqualify him from certain things and this probably should have been one of those things. Tim Roth is Dutch Schultz and while Schultz had a reputation for being a character, Roth went a little over the top with it, but was still very entertaining. My favorite performance was of course the one by Andy Garcia as Lucky Luciano, but he really wasn't in the film much and that's a shame, because nobody plays a crime boss better than hen does. Hoodlum is a wild ride about an incredible true story, but as a film, it was a mix of terrific scenes and some slower unnecessary elements. As a film it's not the best, but it's worth watching just for the amazing story that is being told. Full Review »
  3. RobD.
    Sep 3, 2006
    I too am a mafia buff who has long been waiting for a movie about Dutch Schultz (let's just forget about Billy Bathgate). Dutch is portrayed by Tim Roth, who expertly shows the character's merciless cruelty and disregard for pretty much everbody. However, this is a much better movie than Jesse B. tells you. It is a well-crafted character study showing the slow corruption of Laurence Fishbourne's character. The sets in the movie are probably the most acurate representation of Harlem ever in a movie. While it does take some liberties with historical accuracy, the point of a movie is to entertain, and this film delivers. Full Review »