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September 03, 1997 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-09-03

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 3, 1997 - 23A

'TI-oodlum' kills superior acting

By Julia Shih
Daily FiP Editor
Infamous crime figures such as
Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano were
legends whose reputations and deeds
li) long even after their deaths. But
w e tall tales of these notorious crim-
inals are constantly rehashed today, lit-
tle notice has been given to the man
who defied their empires to become

full-scale war is triggered, causing
Harlem to become a bloody battle-
ground spawned by greed.
The plot of "Hoodlum" is overly
complicated and extremely hard to fol-
low. The alliances between the differ-,
ent gangsters are often confusing or
ambiguously defined, with the motiva-
tions behind many of the characters'
actions seemingly nonexistent. Many
of the problems
are caused by
VIEW I how the film-

known as the
"The Black
Godfather of
Harlem."
Academy
Award nominee
L u r e n c e
F hb u r n e
("What's Love

- RE

Hoodlum
**
At Briarwood and Showcase

makers base
much of the
movement of the
plot on audience
inferences.

Got to Do With It?") leads an all-star
ensemble cast in the gritty epic drama,
"Hoodlum." Also starring Acadamy
Award nominee Tim Roth ("Pulp
Fiction") and another nominee, Andy
Garcia, "Hoodlum" is kept alive by stel-
lar performances from it's big three,
despite a muddy plot.
Ashburne plays Ellsworth "Bumpy"
J son, a lifetime hoodlum fresh out
of Sing Sing in 1934. He returns to the
old neighborhood only to find that
gangster Dutch Schultz (Roth) is trying
to muscle in on the numbers racket.
Bumpy's help is enlisted by the Queen
of Policy who runs the operation, and
when she is jailed, Bumpy is entrusted
to take over the business.
Soon after Bumpy allies himself with
crime lord Lucky Luciano (Garcia), a

Viewers are often
expected to have a fine understanding
of the crime world and it's mechanics,
leaving those who are not clear about
the rules of action and retaliation com-
pletely befuddled. With most viewers
wasting a lot of concentration trying to
figure out what is going on, a lot of the
film's aesthetics and action are easily
lost.
Director Bill Duke contributes both
to the film's beauty and to its confusion.
He attempts to break many conventions
of the classic Hollywood narrative, an
approach that at times produces incred-
ible shot sequences and makes the story
more compelling, but at other times
gives the film an awkward feel.
The setting of "Hoodlum," with its
vintage cars, clothes and music, is an
amazing backdrop to the acting.

When combined with spectacular per-
formances by the actors, audiences
are completely immersed in the vio-
lent, urban world of Harlem in the
'30s.
Fishburne is solid with his portrayal
of a man who was a cold and fearless
killer using one face, and a passionate,
Robin Hood-type using another. His
collected calm speaks as loudly as
Roth's explosive string of four-letter
expletives.
Roth plays the impulsive loose can-
non who is out to take over the world.
His character's personality is harsh and
grating, but Roth plays it to perfection.
Garcia is also riveting, playing Lucky
Luciano as a cold-blooded but intelli-
gent man.
Chi McBride is also incredible as
Illinois Gordon, Bumpy's cousin and
right-hand man. Best known as the
wise-cracking janitor on "The John
Larroquette Show, McBride shows his
range in this head-turning performance.
He proves himself to be a promising
young actor who viewers should look
for in the future.
The rise and fall of Harlem legend
Bumpy Johnson is a volatile one both
on a private and public level. While
"Hoodlum" tries to re-create this, it is
much too fragmented and confusing to
provide a compelling narrative. With
so much effort and concentration
needed to sort out the messy plot,
many people will choose to sleep
through this long movie rather than
work through it.

As you can see,,
Laurence
Fishbume is a
bad, bad man: he
struts down the
street with hLs.
big gun in his fist
above, and at the,
left he woos and
caresses former
beauty queen and
nudie mag piqup
Vanessa
Williams.

Bogart biography unmasks the man behind the myth

Bogart
A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax
William Morrow
umphrey Bogart is arguably one of the greatest
malemovie stars of the century. Having starred in
unforgettable films such as "Casablanca,"
"The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big
Sledp," his commanding screen pres-
ence is still felt today.
But though his onscreen per- _
sona is easily recognizable, this
epitome of male machismo has
been hidden in the shadows of his
image. In the revealing biography
' art" by A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax, the man
behTind the enigma is finally revealed.
Bogart's entire life is told in candid detail revealing
both the good and the bad about the man. Born into a
family that included a father who was a doctor and a

mother who was a nationally famous illustrator,
Bogart's earliest memories would be touched by pain.
He is remembered as a polite but introverted child
raised by abusive servants, with a father addicted to
morphine and a mother who tended to be cold and
aloof.
His acting career began in the theater in New York,
where his hard work and determina-
tion turned him from an abysmal
actor to a stunning one. He struggled
to be noticed in Hollywood, doing
many small roles in films.
Though many recognized
him as a talented actor, fate
prevented him from succeed-
ing.
His break finally came with his role in the 1936
film "The Petrified Forest." Newly signed to a con-
tract with Warner Brothers, he was used in a slew of
B-grade projects. He finally achieved stardom with
"The Maltese Falcon" in 1941, and "Casablanca" the

following year established him as a captivating roman-
tic lead and international icon.
But while his film career budded, Bogart's personal
life was tumultuous. He was known as a likable man
who turned vicious after the third martini. He endured
a string of sado-masochistic relationships, particularly
with his third wife, Mayo Methot. The couple fought
violently, often in public, and caused each other to slip
into alcoholism and self-destructive behavior. He
finally gained some control over his personal life after
meeting 19-year-old Lauren Bacall on the set of "To
Have and Have Not," for whom he divorced Methot
and with whom he ended up spending the rest of his
life.
Throughout the book, Bogart is described as a gen-
tle and professional man whose acting abilities were
unmatched. Yet, though he was a performer who could
seamlessly slip in and out of character, many felt that
he was an actor in search of his own identity. As one
friend described him, "Bogie is in constant anxiety to
See BOOKS, Page 25A

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