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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Retro Review: Harlem Nights (1989)

Harlem Nights 
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Jasmine Guy, Arsenio Hall, Thomas Mikal Ford 
Genre: Black Comedy Crime
Worldwide Box Office Gross: around $95 million 

Plot: During the 1920s, a New York illegal gambling house owner and his associates must deal with strong competition, gangsters and corrupt cops, in order to stay in business

'A Career Low For Eddie Murphy As Harlem Nights Patchy Tone, Sinks This Film'

An Eddie Murphy Movie Mishap, Harlem Nights is supposedly a homage to 1950s gangster films with an execution that is absent of wit, humour, entertainment and joy. Which has been a staple in many of Eddie's other 1980s and 1990s offerings on the cinematic front. After huge box office draws with Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2, 48 HRS, Coming To America and Trading Places, he hit his first major movie stumbling block: Harlem Nights. 

Quick is an orphan, who later grew up and became Sugar Ray's right-hand man and partner of a swanky nightclub. A fellow mob kingpin doesn't like what he sees and attempts to put a stop to it by sending a mole and corrupt cop to do some damage. 

Watching Harlem Nights, I wasn't too surprised as to why it didn't go down so well with people and that it became Eddie's biggest flop, until The Adventures of Pluto Nash & Norbit. Most people even consider Harlem Nights to be the beginning of his decline right into the 1990s onwards in terms of movies, although I did enjoy some of his efforts such as Boomerang, Metro, Bowfinger, Vampire in Brooklyn. 

The film has an impressive pedigree cast ensemble of talented African American performers from TV & film of the 1980s, such as Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Jasmine Guy, Redd Foxx and Arsenio Hall to name. It looks stylish and wonderful, encapsulating that 1930s feel, and yet it is unfortunately ruined by constant usage of the F-word, every couple of seconds. There was hardly a line where someone isn't telling the other to shut the 'F' up. I know this is R-rated, but in constantly hearing the characters blurt out 'motherf***er', really becomes a chore and less amusing. Most of the humour here was unfunny to sit through. 

As a comedy film itself, it fails in a big way. The tone of it is so confusing - yet patchy; it is not a comedy when it comes across as being serious, but even when it is being serious, it's just sheer boredom, nothingness for me to talk about. The writing ought to have been way better and humour that didn't resort to profanity was absent. 

After sitting through the first 30, 40 mins, I could see why Eddie didn't try his hand at writing another film. Though I understand he wanted to recreate that Bugsy Malone-feel and his intentions on this were evident, thanks to the clothing and visual setting, the script and overall feel it should have evoked, just never came to prominence. 

The only highlight for me was the fight between Eddie's character and the big black woman. But other than that, everything else was a huge disappointment. 

Richard Pryor, yet again, a great comedian in his own right; however, his movie offerings have been far from impressive. Thus, they don't take advantage of the man's comedic talents, in the way I expected. 

Final Verdict:

Harlem Nights is one of my least favourite Eddie Murphy Movies and is up there with The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Even Vampire in Brooklyn was far more interesting than this - and that film became an even bigger box office bomb than Harlem Nights

The profanity is overly excessive for a comedy and it ruined the experience, although the cursing was a number of problems with the film. The confusing tone of the Harlem Nights also did a disservice to it as well, not to mention the lack of decent laughs that came from one-liners and such that didn't have a curse word in them. 

I had to stop and fast-forward the dull parts, yet after 10 secs, it became boring again. With a decent script, it would have stood a chance of being a relatively good film itself. 

A vanity project, as a lot of people cited it as, if ever there is one for Eddie Murphy, this ain't no angel of Harlem. 


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