Directed by Danny DeVito
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Armand Assante, John C. Reilly
Writing a review about Hoffa really comes down to a list of reasons why I wanted to love it, followed by a umber of reasons why I could only like it. This is one of the early directing efforts of Danny Devito (War of the Roses) who earned an Oscar nomination for Erin Brockovich. The film stars some incredible actors including Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men), Armand Assante (American Gangster), and John C. Reilly (The Thin Red Line). Danny DeVito also gave himself a part in this partially fictionalized film.
Jimmy Hoffa (Nicholson) believes in his union. With the help of his partners, Hoffa is slowly building a Teamster empire that is constantly under scrutiny. From the government to the mob, Hoffa is constantly walking on the edge, working to continue the success of the union and his own person success.
So, why did I want to love this movie? First of all, it’s a great story. Sure, no one seems to know what happened to Hoffa, but he is an iconic figure in contemporary history. The story of the Teamsters is full of questions and so much could be done with that kind of story. Second, no one looks as much like Jimmy Hoffa as Jack Nicholson does. He was the perfect choice for this movie. Finally, with the freedom to choose your own ending, this film could choose any conclusion it wanted.
Now, why I didn’t love it. This is a prime example of focusing on everything all and nothing all at once. There didn’t seem to be a good arc in the story and it didn’t flow at all. I don’t know how the writers failed with such an open premise.
Next, the ending… it didn’t work for me. I’m sure that they thought it would be fitting to speculate on the way Hoffa’s life ended, but it was a bit of a letdown. I think that this film needed a written note at the end of the film noting that Hoffa’s disappearance is still a mystery. Instead, it felt like other movies that speculate on moments that we can’t expect to have any facts about. It’s like telling people that lethal injection is painless, we can’t know that.
Finally, why waste a great cast on this movie. Now no one will ever get Nicholson to do a better Hoffa film now!
Truthfully, the film was just not that good. It was decent, but it never really did anything that left me feeling good about it. One of the biggest weaknesses was the camera work. It felt like a series of examples of different angles and camera tricks all thrown together. Without any consistency the film felt like a patchwork quilt of badly edited scenes.
This is all sad with Nicholson giving an awesome performance as the unique and powerful Teamster boss. Most of the actors, including DeVito, do their work with a lot of success. In some ways this is just frustrating, since elements other than the acting hurt this movie.
So, I don’t know if you’ll enjoy this one or not. It’s highly fictionalized, but it might be interesting if you don’t know a lot about the Teamsters or Hoffa. I give this one 2 out of 5 stars.