I've really had it with this tired-ass genre. Don't filmmakers have anything better to do? Oh look, another story about a guy who sacrificed his personal life to achieve fame and fortune through criminal wrongdoing. Well slap me upside the head and call me mommy -- I haven't heard that one before.
This time around black people get their turn. Bumpy Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) returns to Harlem in 1934 after a stint in prison. He promptly becomes the right hand man of the Queen (Cicily Tyson), who runs the numbers in the neighborhood. When Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) starts moving in on the Queen's territory, Bumpy takes offense and goes after the feared gangster, making things difficult for Schultz and his partner, the dapper Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia).
Director Bill ("A Rage in Harlem") Duke takes care to leave no stone unplagiarized. He throws in a little "Godfather III" by examining Bumpy's personal sacrifices. He throws in a little "Scarface" by making "fuck" the only word in Schultz's vocabulary. Then he adds a little slam-bang action from "The Untouchables" to taste.
The consequences are simple: When Bumpy splits with his wife (Vanessa Williams), we couldn't care less because Duke hasn't spent any time developing their relationship. Gradually, the one dimensional characters pile up like paper dolls, and soon we're at the point where we can actually anticipate whole speeches: "Bumpy, is it worth it? Watching your friends die? How do you live with yourself? It's too high a price to pay." $7.50 was too high a price to pay.
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