New York 1938, and the city's nocturnal revelries are centered upon Club Sugar Ray, where gambling, booze and hookers are available in equal quantities. Presided over by the paternal Sugar Ray (Pryor) and his hot-headed adopted son Quick (Murphy), the illegal venue's profitable future is threatened when rival clubster Bugsy Calhoune (Lerner) demands a slice of the action, aided and abetted by crooked cop Phil Cantone (Aiello). Resolving to head for pastures new, Ray and Quick plot to stitch up Calhoune and Cantone once and for all before exiting swiftly with the loot. Written, produced, directed by and starring Mr Murphy, Harlem Nights is a bloated period piece, brandishing big production values, one or two good performances (notably Pryor and Aiello), the occasional laugh, and a spectacularly duff sub-Sting storyline that doesn't so much climax as go prematurely limp. Murphy's screenplay abounds with the usual doses of misogynistic dialogue, interspersed with a few gags about people who stutter and multiple use of the word 'motherfucker', all of which are tiresome. the imposing Della Reese meanwhile camps it up as a ball-busting Madame, who says 'Kiss my entire ass' endlessly and beats Murphy up, which is a vicarious delight for all.
Cast and crew