Netflix Pick of the Week: Harlem Nights

netflix movie review harlem nights

Sugar Ray (Richard Pryor) and his adopted son, Quick (Eddie Murphy), run a speakeasy called Club Sugar Ray. When gangster Bugsy Calhoune (Michael Lerner) learns that Sugar Ray's place is pulling in more money than his own establishment, the Pitty Pat Club, he pays corrupt cop Phil Cantone (Danny Aiello) to close Club Sugar Ray down. Quick doesn't exactly help the situation when he falls for Calhoune's gun moll, Miss Dominique La Rue (Jasmine Guy).

"Harlem Nights" is a nice, enjoyable movie where Eddie Murphy doesn't overplay his street-smart shtick, where Pryor is the nice guy and sometimes a touching father-figure who tries to keep things in control and Redd Foxx is the subject of a great running-gag involving his poor sight, his interactions with Della Reese are as enjoyable as Murphy's. In fact, they all have great chemistry all together. And for all its black casting, white actors also play funny and entertaining parts.

Michael Lerner steals the show as a believably intimidating mobster with then-"Different World" star Jasmine Guy as his mole. I reckon her character could have been more developed, but she inspired an interesting twist on the usual femme-fatale trope... and prevented the film from a predictable romantic subplot. And Danny Aiello plays with perfection the corrupt cop, his role seems limited, but he carries on with such arrogance and self-confidence we just love to hate him.

"Harlem Nights" has all the ingredients: cops, thugs, fixed gambling bets, boxing, music halls, heists but these are only decorative aspects, the film is more about relationships and interactions that go from funny to touching, from violent to... well, funny again. If the film isn't flawless, it never goes so bad it deserves to be bashed. I'm pretty sure the film will age better for those who didn't like it first.

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