(Danny DeVito, USA, 1992)


The biopic Hoffa, starring Jack Nicholson as the controversial leader of the American Teamsters union, is a curiously single-minded portrait.

Both scriptwriter David Mamet and director Danny DeVito seem to have fallen completely in love with this gruff hero of the people – even his dealings with the Mob (personified by Armand Assante) are given an altruistic gloss.

A certain romanticism pervades the entire piece – nostalgia for an all-male world of manual labour, where tough guys bark florid, streetwise poetry and play out gangsterish scenarios of bonding and betrayal.

Indeed, DeVito – who is an extraordinarily talented filmmaker – has clearly modelled the style and structure of Hoffa on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984). This act of homage results in many stirring scenes – especially in the framing story involving Hoffa and DeVito as Bobby Ciaro waiting at a roadside diner for fate to arrive.

MORE DeVito: Duplex

MORE Mamet: The Winslow Boy, State and Main, Glengarry Glen Ross

© Adrian Martin August 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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