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It doesn’t match The Godfather or even The Godfather III, yet despite its cliché-ridden screenplay, Hoodlum (1997) has points in its favor. One: an interesting story concerning an illegal, lucrative African American lottery scheme in Depression-era Harlem. Two is the cast: a restrained Andy Garcia as Lucky Luciano; a maniacal Tim Roth as Dutch Schultz; and a sly, indomitable Laurence Fishburne as Bumpy Johnson, a black criminal determined to protect his people’s piece of the action.
Drawn from a true account, Eleni follows New York Times reporter Nicholas Gage (John Malkovich) to Greece, ostensibly as Athens bureau chief but with an ulterior motive: searching out the Stalinists who killed his mother during the brutal Greek Civil War of the late 1940s. Malkovich is dangerously fey in this 1985 film, shot on location by director Peter Yates (Bullitt). Eleni shifts back and forth between past and present, depicting love, hatred and twisted ideals.
The Ratings Game
Seen today, Danny DeVito’s 1984 directorial debut is a dated spoof of a world that no longer exists. At the time of its release, however, The Ratings Game was a spot-on satire of network television. DeVito plays a New Jersey hustler determined to break into TV—a no-talent “goomba” in a no-talent business. The targets of DeVito’s humor were mostly deserving, especially unctuous network executives and a public sated on celebrity culture.
The Mark of Zorro
Precise rhythm and choreography were central to director Rouben Mamoulian’s aesthetic and are easy to see in his swashbuckling adventure, The Mark of Zorro (1940). The original caped crusader was a fighter against oppression in colonial California, played with a broad smile by impossibly handsome Tyrone Power. Opposing this aristocratic champion of the downtrodden is a dastardly Spanish officer played by saber-twirling Basil Rathbone. Linda Darnell plays his love interest, the niece of a corrupt governor.