Starring Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Michael Lerner, Charlie Murphy, Jasmine Guy, Lena Rochon, Danny Aiello, Arsenio Hall, Robin Harris, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Berlinda Tolbert
(7-Very Good Film)
Leisurely. Appealing. Brash.
If anyone remembers Harlem Nights, Eddie Murphy’s lone directorial effort, disappointment or unsuccessful are probably the words that come up quickest. Murphy stars as Quick alongside a terrific cast that includes Richard Pryor, Della Reese, and Redd Foxx among many familiar faces. Murphy and Pryor’s characters run a speakeasy in Harlem during the 1930s and are doing so well that local big-shot, Bugsy Calhoune (Lerner), wants a cut of their action. They have to use their wits to outsmart the gangster. Harlem Nights isn’t funny. Parts of it are humorous and the actors perform with natural charisma but it’s not what you’d expect from a film starring Murphy, Pryor, and Foxx. I’m sure that’s where the disappointment comes from. Aside from that though, I think there’s a lot that is worthwhile about this film. The setting, the score by Herbie Hancock, and the performances above all. Murphy seems to have a deft hand at working with actors. Harlem Nights is better than it’s given credit for.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-