Harlem Nights

Eddie Murphy stars, writes, produces, and debuts as a director with this semicomic gangster movie mainly set in 1938. Playing the adopted son and partner of a crooked Harlem nightclub tycoon (Richard Pryor), Murphy struts his usual stuff as an actor and icon in the midst of opulence, this time doing battle against a white mobster (Michael Lerner) and white cop (Danny Aiello) who are trying to take away their business. The plot exposition gets laborious in spots, the period flavor is only occasional and approximate, and the direction tends to be clunky, yet the strong secondary castRedd Foxx, Della Reese, Berlinda Tolbert, Stan Shaw, Jasmine Guy, Vic Polizos, Lela Rochon, Arsenio Hall, and othershelps to take up some of the slack; the so-so score is by Herbie Hancock (1989). (JR)

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