“Killing Jimmy Hoffa” is a noteworthy documentary not to be silenced as its titular subject matter

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downloadKilling Jimmy Hoffa
Written and directed by Al Profit
USA, 2014

Sure, there have been a feature film, a few documentaries and countless written articles on the life and times of the vanished legendary American labor union leader James “Jimmy” Riddle Hoffa (his “disappearance” date being July 30, 1975). Most notably fare such as the Danny DeVito-directed 1992 film Hoffa starring Jack Nicholson in the tile role tried to depict the controversial teamster union leader in all his noted glory. Of course Hoffa’s glory days as being a young union activist within the ranks of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to becoming one of the most powerful and divisive union leaders in the country came as a heavy price to pay. Presiding over a whopping teamsters union that had the largest membership in the United States definitely was a monumental achievement for the Midwestern native that came from nothing in his severely humble Indiana roots to rubbing shoulders with criminal kingpins and becoming the ultimate wheeler-and-dealer in Detroit.

In writer-director Al Profit’s straight-shooting and intriguing documentary Killing Jimmy Hoffa we are presented with a perplexing puzzle behind the Hoffa mythology that fabulously covers his deprived childhood experiences to the work-related adversities that further shaped Hoffa’s hardened shell and possibly explains his motivation for gravitating toward notorious gangsters that held dominant influence in business practices at the time. Profit and his fellow talking heads of experts and theorists convey some interesting insights in trying to piece together the aforementioned perplexing puzzle leading up to that fateful day that Hoffa’s sudden disappearance turned into one of America’s most concentrated crime mysteries ever conceived. The ingredients are succulent within this shady-minded showcase: poverty, blue-collar labor disputes, mob-inspired manipulations, behind-the-scene and public political posturing, heavy-duty random criminal charges and jail sentencing for Hoffa and his mobster associates and yes…the juicy speculation about the noted demise of the infamous Hoffa.  For these revelations Killing Jimmy Hoffa resonates with a sturdy sense of compelling curiosity, corruption and off-kilter conviction.

There is not anything particularly flashy or fresh in how Killing Jimmy Hoffa goes about its solid presentation in bringing the audience into its web of mischievousness pertaining to Hoffa’s rise and fall and eventual elimination through his infamous abduction. In fact, some of the sordid accounts by an assortment of on-screen sources–former law enforcers and government agents, journalists, Hoffa historians, ex-mobsters, academics–provide discussions and deliver comments that some viewers may have heard previously in the past. So yes…the regurgitation of Hoffa-inspired hysteria and happenings is nothing new or inviting. However, the panel does enthusiastically engage the viewer with a convincing dosage of hair-raising tidbits that skillfully tie Hoffa into the sensationalized madness that persists.


The vintage and simplistic appeal that is Killing Jimmy Hoffa’s artistic make-up is the archived footage and selected newsreels (not to mention the printed screen footnotes) thus given us the impression that this stark documentary is almost as personalized as a nostalgic current events homework assignment.

Thankfully, Killing Jimmy Hoffa is engrossing because it is detailed in its turbulent timeline as it helps recall the inter-weaving of Hoffa’s complimentary and contentious dealings with his run-ins that included his teamster workers, mob connections and his own devilish devices when it came to his criminal acts and brushes with the law.

The meaty material resourcefully delves into some mighty tumultuous territory as Hoffa (with a lot on his full plate already) is pitted against a pesky and crusading Bobby Kennedy as the U.S. General Attorney (with the backing of his presidential brother’s JFK administration) is on a manhunt to nab Hoffa and his affiliation with illegal mobster-related activities. Naturally the Kennedys were a threat and certainly not “good for business”. The hits (excuse the pun) keep on coming as Killing Jimmy Hoffa touches upon Hoffa’s alleged mob involvement in assassinating President Kennedy (although he would have probably settled for silencing meddlesome little brother Bobby instead). Other factors that weigh heavy on the suspense include Hoffa’s various criminal charges and subsequent incarceration (coupled with President Richard Nixon’s pardon of the felonious labor leader). High-level mob bosses and their families are put under the spotlight as they are grilled about their possible agenda in “quieting” a re-energized Jimmy Hoffa looking to capture his coveted teamster title once again in a planned comeback…until that expectation was put to rest one disastrous day on July 30, 1975 outside the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan.

Thoroughly captivating and informative, Killing Jimmy Hoffa is a noteworthy documentary not to be silenced as its titular subject matter. It is not anything ground-breaking but it does break ground in its willingness to tackle the tragic walking figurehead that was the mystifying Jimmy Hoffa.

–Frank Ochieng





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