5-minute film review: Harlem Nights (1989)

I’ve watched Harlem Nights umpteen times and each time it delivers lovely new undiscovered gems. Late comedy greats Richard Pryor and Red Foxx join Eddie Murphy to turn this caper comedy into a work of art. Set in 1930’s Harlem, it follows a face-off between Italian mobsters and black gangsters. Think Boardwalk Empire but really funny and clever. The writing, acting, jokes, and sets are top-notch, and so is the fashion.

Despite it being from 1989 it does a great job of being realistic and respectful, compelling and 3-dimensional of its diverse cast. The film acknowledges racial tensions that were common at the time without vilifying one group or another. Though there are no female leads, the female characters are badasses in their own right, and the intergenerational dynamics are touching yet funny. It’s a great reminder that stories don’t have to be stereotypical to be engaging.

If you get a chance, see it!


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