Hoodlum (1997)

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Released 10-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 124:46 (Case: 130)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (80:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bill Duke

Starring Laurence Fishburne
Tim Roth
Vanessa L. Williams
Andy Garcia
Cicely Tyson
Chi McBride
Clarence Williams III
Richard Bradford
William Atherton
Loretta Devine
Queen Latifah
Mike Starr
Beau Starr
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Elmer Bernstein

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Hoodlum is set in 1930s depression era New York and in particular the pro-negro area of Harlem. It is essentially the story of a turf war between a white man and a black man for control of Harlem and the profits from an illegal gambling operation. At the top of the organised crime tree is Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia), the mafia head man who rules New York with an iron fist, keeping all the warring sides from killing each other and the various corrupt city officials such as police and DA's under control with plenty of cash. Unfortunately for Lucky, things are about to get a little out of hand.

    Hard man 'Bumpy' Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) has just been released from prison after doing a five year stretch. Harlem is a bit different from the time he went inside, with the depression hitting people hard. Poverty abounds and people are hungry. But one thing has not changed - the numbers racket. This is basically an illegal lottery that at least gives the people of Harlem some chance of survival should they win. For many years the numbers have been run by the Queen of Harlem, Stephanie St Clair (Cicely Tyson) a hard yet elegant woman, who shuns violence, but has plenty of muscle in her support staff when it comes time to bust a few heads. When Bumpy is released from prison he heads straight to the Queen and pledges his continuing assistance and loyalty. Which is just as well, since competition for the numbers racket is coming and it's not going to be pretty.

    Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) is a foul-mouthed, uncouth and villainous would-be mobster and a former partner of Luciano. He desperately wants a slice of the Harlem numbers action and doesn't mind who he has to kill to get it. When Dutch uses all his coercive powers on corrupt officials to get the Queen stuck in jail for running an illegal gambling racket, Bumpy is forced to take the reigns of the numbers empire. He pledges to the Queen and all her supporters that Dutch will not get his hands on any of the Harlem action and if blood has to be spilled to protect it, then so be it.

    What follows is an all-out turf war with plenty of guns battles, ambushes, murders, and explosions. The body count starts to rise dramatically and the city officials are starting to get jumpy, threatening the stability of all the city's crime lords. It's at this stage that Lucky Luciano is going to be forced to step in and try to calm things down else his own empire might come under excessive scrutiny from the nervous police and prosecutors.

    Hoodlum is certainly slick looking. The production design is first class, with the depression era New York captured to perfection. This looks much like The Untouchables and certainly adds an air of authenticity to the story. The acting is also excellent, with Laurence Fishburne appearing ice-cool yet troubled in his role as protector and Tim Roth capturing the essence of a murderous foul-mouthed villainous mongrel to perfection. The supporting cast is also first rate. The story is a little tedious in the first half, and the climax is not perhaps as fulfilling as many would have liked, but the performances more than make up for those shortcomings. This budget title is certainly worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    There is some excellent production design in this film which captures the essence of depression era Harlem in a splendid manner. Lots of gaudy colours are coupled with the grey and drab looking streets and surrounds, and these are all shown in what is a nicely detailed transfer that maintains an excellent overall level of sharpness throughout the film. There is no discernable edge enhancement and the level of shadow detail never falls below what is considered acceptable. The amount of grain is kept to an absolute minimum and there is no low level noise.

    The colours are incredibly lifelike, with the contrast between some of the gaudy clubs and the depressed and impoverished streets of Harlem looking a treat.

    I noticed no MPEG artefacts. Aliasing was very well controlled and virtually invisible. There are some film artefacts but they were few and far between for the majority of the film.

    There are plenty of subtitle options and I sampled the English variety extensively and found them around 90 per cent accurate.

    This disc is presented as a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting, with the layer change placed at 80:46. It is very nicely placed and is barely perceptible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This disc features five Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, all encoded at the higher bitrate of 448Kb/s. Languages supported are English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Naturally enough I listened to the English soundtrack in its entirety. It delivers excellent separation to all channels with plenty of oomph to support the shootout scenes.

    Dialogue was always clear and easily understood. There were no audio sync problems.

    The musical score is by the renowned Elmer Bernstein and is typical of a 1930s period gangster tale.

    The surround channels were used extensively throughout, mostly for street fill in effects, the several loud gun battles and the odd explosion or two.

    The subwoofer pops up nicely during the battle scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 2:00 exactly, this is a fairly slick looking trailer that does provide glimpses of pretty much every major scene in the film, but it is edited in such a way that it does not give away any major plot points. Presented in the slightly modified aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and comes complete with 16x9 enhancement.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 disc misses out on;

    Unless the inclusion of a meaningless pan and scan version of the film is important to you, it is hard to go past the Region 4 disc, especially considering the budget price.


    Hoodlum is an extremely well-made mobster tale that is perhaps a little tedious in its delivery at times. In addition to the lavish production design, it is the performances that are certainly the highlight of film, with Laurence Fishburne giving an excellent turn as the famous 'Bumpy' Johnson and Tim Roth proving a more than capable murderous, foul-mouthed villain.

    The video is of a very high standard.

    The audio soundtrack is excellent, with full use of all 5.1 speakers.

    The extra is limited to a trailer on this budget release.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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