Taglines: They’re up to something big.
In Harlem, New York, 1918, Sugar Ray has a dice game. Nearly killed by an angry customer, Ray is saved by seven-year-old errand boy Vernest Brown, who shoots the man. After being told that his parents are dead, Ray decides to raise the boy as his own. And because of the boy’s savvy, he is nicknamed “Quick.”
Twenty years later, Ray and Quick run a nightclub called “Club Sugar Ray”, with a brothel in back run by madam Vera. Smalls, who works for the gangster Bugsy Calhoune, and Miss Dominique LaRue, Calhoun’s mistress, arrive. Smalls and LaRue have come to see the club and report to Calhoune. Later, Calhoun sends corrupt detective Sgt. Phil Cantone to threaten Ray with shutting the club down unless Calhoun gets a cut.
Ray decides to shut down, but first wants to make sure he’s provided for his friends and workers. An upcoming fight between challenger Kirkpatrick and defending champion (and loyal Club Sugar Ray patron) Jack Jenkins will draw a lot of money in bets. Ray plans to place a bet on Kirkpatrick to make Calhoune think Jenkins will throw the fight. Ray also plans to rob Calhoune’s booking houses. A sexy call girl named Sunshine is used to distract Calhoune’s bag man Richie Vinto.
Calhoune thinks Smalls is stealing and has him killed. Quick is noticed near the scene by Smalls’ brother Reggie who tries to kill him. Quick kills him and his men. Calhoune sends LaRue to seduce and kill Quick. Quick realises he is being set up and kills LaRue.
Calhoune has Club Sugar Ray burned down. Sunshine seduces Richie Vinto and tells him she has a pickup to make. Richie agrees to pick her up on the way to collect money for Calhoune. Richie gets into an accident orchestrated by Ray’s henchman Jimmy. Ray and Quick, disguised as policemen, attempt to arrest Richie, telling him that the woman he’s riding around with is a drug dealer.
Harlem Nights is a 1989 American black comedy crime film written, executive produced, and directed by Eddie Murphy. Murphy co-stars with Richard Pryor as a team running a nightclub in late-1930s Harlem, New York while contending with gangsters and corrupt police officials. The film also features Michael Lerner, Danny Aiello, Redd Foxx (in his last film before his death in 1991), Della Reese, and Murphy’s brother Charlie Murphy.
Murphy received a nomination for Worst Director at the 10th Golden Raspberry Awards, his only directorial effort; the film “won” Worst Screenplay. He had always wanted to direct and star in a period piece, as well as work with Pryor, whom he considered his greatest influence in stand-up comedy.
Harlem Nights (1989)
Directed by: Eddie Murphy
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Danny Aiello, Michael Lerner, Della Reese, Berlinda Tolbert, Stan Shaw, Jasmine Guy, Lela Rochon
Screenplay by: Eddie Murphy
Production Design by: Lawrence G. Paull
Cinematography by: Woody Omens
Film Editing by: Alan Balsam, George Bowers
Costume Design by: Joe I. Tompkins
Set Decoration by: George R. Nelson
Art Direction by: Russell B. Crone, Geoff Hubbard
Music by: Herbie Hancock
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 17, 1989